Opinion

Plagued by lousy AT&T Service

From Macworld
I’m about an hour and a half away from Boston and Providence, R.I., respectively, in what’s referred to these days as an “exurb” (short for “extra urban,”), too far away to be a suburb but not quite in the sticks. It’s the sort of place where couples of modest middle incomes can afford decent houses on plots of land big enough to raise children so they can have trees in their back yard, and I expect it’s pretty typical middle-class living for a lot of folks in the United States.

And my iPhone reception is terrible.

Look, the phone is a terrific piece of hardware. The built-in capabilities, the new applications (and yeah, the instability that seems to come hand-in-hand with the iPhone 2.0 update)—I like it all (except for the instability part). But at the end of the day, the iPhone is primarily a phone, and for me, anyway, it’s coming up really short in that department. And I think it’s AT&T’s fault.

I regularly experience dropped calls, or calls that get garbled beyond my ability to understand what’s being said. And I know I’m not the only one.

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Vetting the App Store Approval Process

From iPhone Central
The App Store has been with us for a month now, and, by many measures, it’s a roaring success. Apple told the Wall Street Journal that it averages around $1 million a day in iPhone application sales, for a grand total of around $30 million in the App Store’s first month of existence. Shoppers have plenty of choices—the App Store launched with more than 500 programs and the number has only swelled since then. And, on a personal note, we find our phones are that much more useful than they were just a couple of months ago, bolstered by software that is generally well-written and offers more capabilities than most of what we got from hacked, third-party programs.

Still, that’s not to say there that the App Store has achieved perfection in just 33 days of operation. There are plenty of areas for improvement, with the most pressing issues centering around the process in which iPhone applications win approval from Apple and wind up for sale at the App Store.

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Don’t be a Player Hater

From Macworld
Like the rest of us, our friends a few cubicles down at PC World get fed up to the point where the dam of their frustration eventually bursts. Such was the case when PC World posted its 11 Things We Hate About iTunes, along with an equally ire-filled companion piece Is Apple iTunes the new AOL? (Our short answer: No. No, it isn’t. Our longer answer: The new AOL? Really?)

PC World, we feel your pain. We at Macworld have been dealing with Apple issues since the dinosaurs walked the earth and have learned to deal with things with a measure of patience and understanding. With that in mind, allow me to attempt to take some of the sting out of those 11 hateful things.

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Geotagging maps Your Photos

From the Seattle Times
Every digital picture we take has a dimension to it that should help in sorting: a embedded time stamp that notes when the picture was taken (as long as your camera's time is set correctly).

What if we could add another dimension — a set of coordinates that tells us where we took the picture? We can. Geotagging puts a pin on a map when we take pictures.

Think of geotagging as a new view into where you've been, one that doesn't rely on your memory.

Geotagging pairs location with time to help sort out where and when a picture was taken. Depending on hardware, the latitude and longitude — and sometimes speed, direction and altitude — are attached to the photo.

Although geotagging dates back several years, two recent entrants into the field make it a casual activity. I tested the Eye-Fi Explore, a new model of the original Eye-Fi storage and Wi-Fi photo transfer card; and the iPhone 2.0 software, on both an original iPhone and the iPhone 3G, which embeds location data.

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AT&T: 'We're all about Wireless'

From USA Today
Wonder why the smoking-hot 3G Apple iPhone only costs $199, less than half the price of the original? Here's a two-word hint: Randall Stephenson.

Stephenson, who became AT&T's (T) chairman and CEO a year ago, championed the idea of paying Apple (AAPL) about $300 per device, analysts estimate, to help hold down the retail cost. The subsidy, which replaces another arrangement that gave Apple a portion of iPhone service revenue, will dilute earnings through 2009, AT&T says.

On the plus side for consumers, the iPhone is now extremely affordable. At $199, the 3G iPhone costs about the same as a high-end cellphone. AT&T says it plans to offer an unsubsidized iPhone later. Cost: $599 to $699, depending on memory, putting it well beyond the reach of average wireless users.

It remains to be seen if AT&T's gamble will pay off. One thing is clear: Thanks to the iPhone, the smartphone game has changed dramatically. And so have consumer perceptions of the mobile Web, a netherworld that seemed downright hostile before the iPhone showed up.

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Why Apple's MobileMe Launch Stumbled

From Macworld
I have no kind words for .Mac, Apple's online service that had its identity erased and replaced with the MobileMe brand on July 11. The .Mac service never worked quite right for me, and I was looking forward to its successor.

MobileMe offers a reduced set of services for the same $99 per year but promised Microsoft Exchange-like synchronization for contacts, e-mail and events, as well as snappy and modern Web applications for a far better experience when away from your desktop or iPhone/iPod touch applications.

Instead of a clean launch, I and reportedly hundreds of thousands of .Mac subscribers had days of problems. And even when resolved, the problems left what Apple describes as 1 percent of its e-mail users adrift from e-mail for 10 days.

The company's MobileMe stumble resulted from its increasing busyness and business.

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Apple’s Unforgivable DNS Delay

From Macworld
Apple’s default stance of “We’ll tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it, and you’ll like it” wasn’t a big deal. But it wasn’t good. When you report a security issue, you want—no, you need—open communication. Getting told “We’re looking into it” or “It’s already been reported”, or worse, “Apple takes security seriously, but we don’t comment about unreleased products” is… well, frustrating is the best word that I can use in a family publication.

A lot of people in my line of work had been predicting that, at some point, Apple’s attitude towards security, and the company’s opaque nature were going to eventually bite it in the keister—and hard. It was just a matter of when, but when it happened, it would put a severe hurt on the goodwill Mac OS X had created over the years.

Welcome to “when.”

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Steve Jobs Walks into the Trap

From CNBC
What was Steve thinking? I don't pretend to understand the pressures he's under, both physically and professionally, but calling New York Times columnist Joe Nocera with an "off the record" health update was a big mistake, completely unnecessary, and serves only to fan the flames.

I just find it so weird that he reached out to anyone, and in such a strange way. Nocera reports that Jobs started the conversation by saying, "This is Steve Jobs. You think I'm an arrogant (expletive) who thinks he's above the law, and I think you're a slime bucket who gets most of the facts wrong."

Which makes you kinda wonder why Jobs would choose a "slime bucket" to get his story out.

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Apple’s Culture of Secrecy

From The New York Times
On Thursday afternoon, several hours after I’d gotten my final “Steve’s health is a private matter” — and much to my amazement — Mr. Jobs called me.

“This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.”

After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record. I tried to argue him out of it, but he said he wouldn’t talk if I insisted on an on-the-record conversation.

So I agreed.

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The Real Issue about Steve's Health

From BusinessWeek
The concerns around his health have centered on two things: His thin appearance at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference, and published reports in Fortune than in late 2003 after he first learned he had cancer, word of his condition wasn’t disclosed to investors for nine months. Having consulted with two outside lawyers, the board of directors decided that it wasn’t under any obligation to disclose anything.

Apple has for the most part remained silent about the health of its CEO. When questions were raised about his appearance at WWDC, spokeswoman Katie Cotton said he had been suffering from a “common bug,” and I’m willing to take that at face value.

But having undergone surgery to remove an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor from his pancreas — which is by all accounts a major surgical procedure and which required him about a month to recuperate — even a “common bug” has the potential to affect Jobs’ appearance. I think this, more than anything else, is the source of the concern.

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App Store is Feature that puts iPhone above All Others

From Chicago Sun-Times
The phone market is crammed with generic handsets, foolish flights of fashion, and neat ideas that are easily imitated. The App Store makes it emphatically clear that the iPhone isn't just a phone and the iPod Touch isn't just a media player. Together they represent a formidable and legitimate new computing platform.

The single best thing to happen to the iPhone this summer is the App Store. It helps the iPhone to claim its hopeful place as "the only device you need."

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Why Q3FY08 iPhone Revenues won't be Up very Much

From MDJ

This excerpt of material intended for MDJ and MWJ readers was sent to a subscribers-only mailing list last week, but we wanted to get it out in the public in the hopes of avoiding the kind of uninformed Apple-bashing cycle that seems to start with every quarterly release.

Apple's recognized hardware revenue for iPhone sales in the June 2008 quarter won't be that much higher than in the March 2008 quarter, and it's not because Apple didn't sell many iPhones (well, people might have been waiting for iPhone 3G, but surely many thousands of people bought the original iPhone in the quarter anyway). What's more, Apple explained three months ago why this would happen.

Here's the scoop.

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Apple sends the Wrong Signal to iPhone Customers

From Macworld
It’s easy to make too much out of a mishap-filled product launch like Friday’s iPhone 3G rollout. Foul-ups and blunders accompany most any product launch, particularly when it’s as ambitious as the worldwide release of the iPhone and its accompanying 2.0 software update.

People might forget now, after a year’s worth of iPhone adulation, but the 2007 launch was not without its problems. So as tempting as it may be for some to seize on Friday’s mishaps as an entrée into denouncing all things iPhone- and Apple-related, it would be a tremendously short-sighted mistake.

Then again, it would be an even bigger mistake to pretend as if nothing happened. Unfortunately, as of this writing, that appears to be exactly what Apple plans on doing.

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Why We Wait in Line for iPhone 3G and You are Inferior

From PeopleJam
While waiting in line this weekend at the Apple store in Santa Monica, I was shocked by the questions posed by passers-by to the line-elites. These people were most likely foreigners or red state hillbillies on summer vacation. The degree of ignorance displayed was disturbing.

It was as if we'd crash landed on a Planet of the Apes, where only I and my fellow line-warriors had any conception of modern technology, civilization, and the messianic glory of Father Jobs and the Apple Trinity.

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More Consumers make the Switch to Macs

From AdAge
For a long time, David Alison was a Mac hater.

In fact, one of the avatars he used was the face of actor John Hodgman, the PC guy in Apple's "Get a Mac" ads. As a software developer, he was heavily invested in and committed to Windows. While he had been a longtime iPod fan, it hadn't been enough to get him to switch.

But then last year his friends started buying iPhones and making the switch -- "guys like me, who didn't really care for Macs." And when the latest Windows operating system, Vista, came out, "It didn't do anything for me," Mr. Alison said. "The very initial version was really a mess."

So he went to an Apple store.

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The Hottest iPhone Apps

From PCMag
The best thing to come of all this iPhone 3G hullabaloo isn't the hardware, it's clearly the software. In one fell swoop iPhone users went from having no third-party software to 500 titles, which are available at Apple's App Store now. The best part? You don't need an iPhone 3G to get in on the fun; The original iPhone and iPod touch simply need iPhone 2.0 software and the latest version of iTunes (7.7).

Many of the available apps are free, and they include programs from heavy-hitters like Google, eBay, and AOL. And the majority of titles that aren't gratis cost less than $10. These programs range in the space they require from less than half a megabyte to 35MB for the largest we could find, but they'll no doubt gobble up more memory for their own data during use. Given iPhone 3G's GPS functionality, there are plenty of location-based services (Loopt, Frommer's, and Where To? to name a few). Games are fairly well represented—Super Monkey Ball, Bejeweled 2, and many Sudoku variants, for example. A lot of what you'll find are merely app versions of what you could get from a mobile Web site, but we're glad to see a fair number of eBooks—a great use for the iPhone's luscious screen. There's some junk in the selection, too, but there are also plenty of goodies.

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Google’s iPhone App is really Good

From ZDNet
Google has created a brand new mobile app for the iPhone/iPod Touch that is currently available in the US App Store — apparently it will be available in other countries very soon. The app is more than a way to search the internet though, it lets a user search for everything a mobile user might be looking for.

I would have expected this application to search only the web, but in true Google style, they took it to the next level. You will find that Google presents you with smart results that include things like your search history, websites, your contact list and Google Maps. You are also given suggestions while you type to cut down on the time you need to spend typing.

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Welcome to Drobo 2.0 -- 2 Times Faster, Firewire Support

From Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection
Yesterday I had lunch with Tom Loverro, Drobo's Director of Product Marketing, where he briefed me on the next big thing coming out of Data Robotics, the second generation Digital Data Robot aka Drobo -- what I'm calling Drobo 2.0.

Beginning today people can now begin placing orders for Data Robotic's second generation Drobo storage device. Drobo 2.0 will cost $499, the same price as the previous model. For a limited time (until they clear their shelves of the old units) Drobo will be selling their first generation Drobos for $349. I blogged about Drobo's first generation device about a year ago here, but this new device is even better -- pure white hot donkey awesomeness.

Boasting new and improved Firewire 400/800 support, the Drobo 2.0 is now twice as fast as the old Drobo.

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Separate Operating Systems?

This picture:

Was what Apple sent to developers as their invitations to next week's WWDC.

This picture:

is from Gernot Poetsch's Flickr Feed.

The Mac Web is reading a lot into the fact that Apple’s WWDC banners show OS X without the "Mac". Now, look at the first image again...

Perhaps Apple is set to announce on Monday that the company will be developing two completely *separate* operating systems - one for Leopard and one for the iPhone?

iPhone: One Year Later

From Computerworld
What a difference a year makes. This month, the hip iPhone celebrates its first anniversary, following its riotous launch last June 29. Its birth followed six months of prerelease hype that was ignited by Apple Inc. CEO and industry luminary Steve Jobs.

The company that brought you the Macintosh computer, and the fabulously successful iPod and iTunes, has jumped -- well, dive-bombed, really -- into the wireless phone business like no cell phone vendor before.

No cell phone, nor arguably any electronic device, has ever generated so much interest so quickly.

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Why switching to Mac was the Right Move for Me

From David Alison's Blog
I'm now at the four month mark in my move to Mac. It didn't start out as a switch; when I bought my MacBook in the beginning of February I was really looking for an excuse to play with some new technology. I was satisfied—not excited mind you but satisfied—to use Windows as my operating system. I had my development environment on Windows and was well versed in all the ins and outs of it. I custom built my PCs myself, mildly over-clocking them to get better performance and being very comfortable in trouble shooting virtually any class of problem. I was a pretty hardcore Windows guy.

What started as an addition to my little technology family evolved pretty rapidly though. Not only did I find the Mac intriguing and fun to use, I found myself enjoying my Windows machine that much less.

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5 Mac Maintenance Myths

From Macworld
You know you need to change the oil in your car every 3,000 miles, clean your house’s gutters every fall, and brush your teeth at least twice a day—but do you know what’s necessary to keep your Mac in good shape? For the most part, Macs run smoothly. But as with most machines, a little preventative maintenance goes a long way toward keeping things running smoothly.

This week, in our Essential Mac Maintenance series, I’ll show you what you need to do, starting today with how to Get Set Up. But first, let’s talk about what you don’t need to do, despite what you may read in online forums or on email mailing lists. I call these things maintenance myths.

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The Evolving World of Mac Backup Software

From TidBITS

At the moment, my spreadsheet lists 60 Mac OS X backup programs - and I know for certain that it's still incomplete. Think about that for a moment. Sixty different Mac programs that claim to have some type of backup capability. Incredible.

To be sure, not all of them meet my criteria for a backup program, which is to say that some of them are incapable of producing either an additive incremental archive or a bootable duplicate - that makes them, essentially, "merely" synchronization programs (useful, just not the same thing as a backup). But still, when I saw that number I was truly astounded.

I'm all in favor of choice, but seriously... Mac users do not need this many backup options!

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A New Apple Rumor and the Reason We're Writing about It

From CNET
Reporters, of course, love to grouse about product rumors, even as we dutifully write about them. (Far be it for us to deny the public the rumor du jour!) But we do it for a reason beyond the obvious page view benefits of intense Apple coverage: It's interesting.

In an era of me-too Web applications and shelves full of PCs and cell phones barely distinguishable from one another, Apple still manages to do something different. Love them or hate them, they're innovators.

Yes, Apple gets lots of free publicity. A little embarrassing for those of us in the news business? Sure. But as reporters covering the technology industry, we're as curious as you about what Jobs has up his sleeve.

So we'll stop writing about it when you stop reading about it and Apple stops producing interesting stuff--none of which anyone expects to happen anytime soon.

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The iMac turns 10

From Macworld

May 6, 1998 was a Wednesday. I used to work at home most Wednesdays. That day I got a call from my boss’s assistant instructing me to hurry in to the office. Which means I was probably not wearing pants when I first heard about the existence of the iMac.

Ten years later, the iMac is still with us, though it has transmogrified from a 233MHz CRT-based all-in-one system into today’s 3.06GHz flat-panel-based system. In the years following the announcement, the iMac helped Apple stagger to its feet, and in 2001 the iPod helped get the company back to the top of its game.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that without the iMac, Apple would either be out of business or a vastly different company than the one we see today. And certainly the iMac was the first Apple product to truly bear the stamp of Steve Jobs, as well as designer Jonathan Ive, both of whom have spent the last decade driving Apple on to even more impressive creations.

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The Mac in the Gray Flannel Suit

From Business Week

Soon after Michele Goins became chief information officer at Juniper Networks in February, she decided to respond to the growing chorus of Mac lovers among the networking company's 6,100 employees. For years, many had used Apple's computers at home and clamored for them in the office as well. So she launched a test, letting 600 Juniper staffers use Macs instead of the standard-issue PCs that run Microsoft's Windows operating system. As long as the extra support costs aren't too high, she plans to open the floodgates. "If we opened it up today, I think 25% of our employees would choose Macs," she says.

Funny thing is, she has never received a single sales call from Apple. While thousands of other companies scratch and claw for the tiniest sliver of the corporate computing market, Apple treats this vast market with utter indifference.

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The iTunes Store: 5 Years and $2,315.60 Later...

From Macworld
Today marks the fifth anniversary of The Store—the music/video/podcast/iPod game/iPod touch software emporium launched by Apple on April 28, 2003. To mark the occasion I thought I’d take a gander at my Purchase History and use it to note a handful of personal landmarks.

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