An Evolution from Windows to Mac

mceThe above photo is the very first photo I ever uploaded to Flickr on January 2nd, 2005. At the time it was my home set up for my Microsoft Media Center PC. I’ve stuck with a Media Center PC in the home now for six years, upgrading with each successive version of Windows. Is now the time to switch the last remaining PC in my home to a Mac and try something new? Fortunately for me, my photography has come a long way since 2005. 🙂

Back in 2006 I wrote a blog post about making my first switch from Windows to Mac after using PCs for 15 years. At the time I was using a Dell laptop as my primary computer. I was tired of all of the stupid little problems I was having with it (I couldn’t disable tap to click on it for example) and I was tired of just all the general errors it seemed to have daily.

It was sort of a difficult move for me to make, as like most people I’d gotten stuck in my ways, and it meant thinking about my computing differently. But in the end I ended up making the switch and moved my primary day to day computing to a MacBook Pro.

I was really happy that I made this change and three years or so later when it came time to upgrade, I replaced my old MacBook Pro with a new 17 inch model. I couldn’t be happier with this decision. Despite a few hiccups here and there, my MacBook Pros have been far more reliable for me than my old Dell laptop (or any previous PC) had been.

And so last year when the PC in the kitchen came down with a virus (even though I try to train my kids not to install things, they were installing crap anyways), after spending about 3 hours trying to fix the PC (this virus was particularly mean and even disabled the DVD drive preventing me from reinstalling the software), I just said screw it and went out and replaced it with a Mac Mini. Again, I couldn’t be more happy with that decision. Only I know the password to the Mac Mini, which means that I get to review anything that’s installed. It’s remained virus free and has performed very well for a computer that is mostly just used to access internet on, email and other light use in the kitchen.

So two of the 3 PCs in my home have now been replaced by Macs.

Now my final PC in my home is going out and I have to make a decision what to do next. Yesterday, for some inexplicable reason, my Media Center PC just started going super, super slow and even freezing. After a while the screen would turn totally black and the only way to get it back was to reboot it. Then I’d reboot it and it would work for a few minutes — but eventually freeze up again. It will last longer when I reboot in safe mode, but I can’t get it to run normally in regular mode at all.

At present I use this PC for three things. I use it to manage my finished JPG photos that I upload to Flickr. I use it as a Media Center PC to stream media to 3 XBox 360 Extender units in the home. And my wife uses it to edit her photos on in Lightroom. My kids also use it from time to time to browse the web.

So I’m thinking of kicking out the final PC in my home and replacing it with an iMac. I’ve been reluctant to do this for a while because I haven’t wanted to spend money on a new iMac, plus I’ve felt like I’ve needed the PC around to read two drobos which are formatted NTFS. (I was able to install Google’s FUSE yesterday and can now access my NTFS Drobos on my Mac — but it’s slow, thanks Tim!)

I bought a new Drobo this morning and two new Western Digital 2TB drives. I think what I’m going to do is to format this new drobo FAT32 and then start my PC in safe mode with networking and transfer all of my files from my main photo archive Drobo over the network to this new Drobo. I should probably have done this anyways a while ago. The old Drobo is a first gen USB2 Drobo and as much as I use these files, it would probably be better to have my Mac Book Pro handle these images with a faster FireWire 800 connection. Once this transfer is complete I can reformat the NTFS first gen Drobo as FAT32 and use it for more archive storage, which I access much less frequently.

I’ve also used this PC as my Media Center and replacing it would involve revisting my home media strategy.

My Home Media strategy is a bit more complicated though. I do like being able to use Media Center on the three XBox 360s. But I think it might be time to replace Media Center with something else. I’ve been disappointed that Microsoft charges me a $60 per year tax to stream Netflix on the XBox 360s and I’ve never been happy with Media Center’s ability to handle my large mp3/photo collections. Having to wait 5 minutes for my music/photos to load at times has really been annoying to me.

But the question is then, what do I replace the Media Center PC / Xbox 360 extenders with? AppleTV? Will it stream my large digital photo / music library through iTunes reliably? Or will I get hit with the same performance problems I saw with Windows Media Center?

Do I wait for GoogleTV to come out? (it’s almost here right?) Will GoogleTV even stream photos and video? And what about watching live TV and using a PVR? At present I use an HD HomeRun HDTV tuner with my Media Center PC and have it record a lot of OTA HD content for me to stream. Can I use an HDTV OTA tuner with an iMac/AppleTV combo? Can I use my existing HomeRun dual tuner? What about GoogleTV? Or should I be looking at something else entirely? Is TiVo even in the game anymore for home streaming?

Or should I just replace the final PC in my home with another PC and *hope* that my next experience with a Media Center PC is a little better. I bought the very first Microsoft Media Center PC the very first day it came out back in July of 2004 and this current PC is my third box running Media Center. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm?

My thinking right now though is that it’s time to kick the final PC out of my home. I’m sick and tired of the unreliability of Windows. Macs can have problems too, I know that. But my experience over the last several years have been that my Macs are far more reliable than my PCs ever have been, and even when I have problems, it is nice to know that I can always set an appointment with a Mac Genius and have someone with a little more know how than me help me troubleshoot things in person locally. So maybe I just do this and then figure out my home media strategy from there.

We’ll see how things unfold in the next few days.

12 Hours on the New Samsung Galaxy S Android Phone, Early Thoughts on the Switch from the iPhone to Android

I bought the new Samsung Galaxy S Android Phone from T Mobile yesterday.

I think the thing is that the mac and iphone are designed for each other. Hours and hours and hours and hours go into making sure that these two devices work together flawlessly. There is only one phone and there is only one mac. Well, not literally, but you get the idea. In a closed environment things can be tested and retested and retested and retested to make sure that the devices stand up to Apple’s litmus test of “just works.”

So that out of the box and afterwards the consumer has a positive experience with the product without having to resort to hacks or workarounds or the what not.

Android by contrast can be used by any device on any computer. So individual combinations thus probably don’t get the testing that they should. My phone should be recognized out of the box by my Mac. Except that it wasn’t. If it had been an iphone it would have been. So I resorted to a hack (turning on USB debugging, something not at all intuitive) in order to get it to work. (Thanks Brian Rose)! Still there it didn’t work quite right. It showed up as two devices instead of one. It showed storage of 1.86GB when there really was more. I had to manually turn USB sharing off after the sync in order to get my music to actually play.

My initial experience with other areas of android as well are that it seems to crash more than the iPhone. Things are harder to figure out. Why can’t I add a contact to a group on the phone? It has contacts. It has groups. Shouldn’t you be able to simply add someone to a group? Why can you fave a contact but then not generate a list of those favorited contacts on the phone?

The device costs as much as an iPhone (at least I think it does, I payed $550 or so for it without a contract for a 16GB phone) but it’s not intuitive at all and far more difficult to use, at least so far for me.

If someone is really tech savvy they might prefer Android. I suspect that I can do far more with this phone in the long run than I can with an iPhone. But it’s like a Windows PC in a lot of ways. Yeah, you’re not beholden to Apple as to what can work on it, but you just spent 5 hours trying to burn a DVD because the driver for the off brand internal 3rd party DVD burner that you’re using from Malaysia inside your PC doesn’t want to work with Windows 7, at least the version of Windows 7 that you’re using.

Positives for Android

1. It’s not AT&T and it feels really, really, good to stick it to AT&T by leaving them after they’ve provided such a crappy network over the past several years. I’m sure they are happy to see me go. I was tweeting about once every 48 hours about how bad they sucked when the iPhone would choke over and over and over and over again on their craptastic network.

2. It’s faster.

3. It’s Google.

Negatives for Android

1. It’s buggy as hell.

2. It lacks apps like Hipstamatic that are important to me. It has alternatives which look promising (I bought vignette last night), but it’s not Hipstamatic.

3. The battery life is probably worse than my iPhone, but I haven’t really had enough experience with this yet. I’m just going by word of mouth here.

One interesting contrast. When I walked into the T Mobile store yesterday to buy my Galaxy S (at about 4pm on a Thursday afternoon), the Embarcadero 1 Store was quite literally empty. I mean there was not a single other customer in the store when I showed up. In fact, in the entire 30 minutes or so that I was there buying it, not a single other customer even walked into the store. It was actually really nice. I was helped right away. The service woman there was very friendly and seemed very happy to have a customer. It was quiet. Not at all rushed. She was playing with the Galaxy phone herself when I showed up there. I asked to see one and she handed me the one that she’d been playing with. So easy.

I suppose how busy a store is might anecdotally be looked at as a measure of popularity for a given product.

The Apple store by contrast is chaos. iPhones are out of stock. You can’t get anyone to help you without an appointment even if you want to buy something. If something breaks later (like my headphones not working), you can’t simply go into the store and have them swap them out as the phone is still under warranty. You have to schedule an appointment either 2 days later or at some other store 50 miles away for tomorrow afternoon to have a tech look at your headphones that probably cost Apple 89 cents a pair to swap them out for you.

If you show up 10 minutes early to the store and the doors are unlocked they’ll make you wait outside in 40 degree weather with two little girls while their employees stand around idly just behind the thick warm glass (probably laughing at you inside) in the warm unlocked store just staring at the poor sucker without an “appointment” and his daughters sitting on the concrete out in the cold in front of the store.

Apple treats people like crap. And there literally is no recourse. Except I guess maybe buying a competitor’s product instead the next time like I just did. Google seems to care more. I’m much more impressed with them as a company. I’m much more impressed with the people that work there that seem passionate about making a better phone and a better world more broadly speaking. I’m much more impressed that they are trying as hard as they can to make the best experience for me even if it might fall short for me initially. I’m impressed that they want to do the right thing for the user. These sorts of things should and do count.

I’ll update this post with more thoughts on the switch in a week.

Updates: A couple of other things while working with this phone today.

1. It boggles my mind that the phone can’t natively take screen shots. There are cumbersome ways to make this work, but not without “rooting” your Android phone. Something that doesn’t seem very easy to do with my Samsung.

2. Tethering is really cool and it’s free on T-Mobile. You have to buy an app called PDANet to do it easily. You get 21 days to use the app for free and then it costs $19. I was able to access the web and upload photos to flickr at perfectly acceptable speeds while tethered. It will be nice not having to pay for hotel wifi in the future for the limited amount that I need it while on the road.

3. The problems with not being able to add contacts to Groups seems to be affecting other users of the Samsung Galaxy as well.

So I Still Haven’t Purchased an iPad

iPad Mania

Last night after dinner with the kids in Emeryville, we stopped by the Apple store to look at the iPads. I’ve been sort of bitter with the Apple store after a bad experience at one in Walnut Creek and hadn’t been back to one since, so I’d yet to actually touch an iPad and last night was my first time. I wrote a post a few months back on why I wasn’t so hot on the device, but actually got to hold one last night for the first time there at the store.

I only got to play with one for about five minutes because the store was closing and we were ushered out by Apple employees (the “good news” is that they are opening back up tomorrow, they told us). All of the kids and my wife got to play with one as well though, albeit briefly.

Touching one didn’t actually do much for me. I found typing on the onscreen keyboard crowded. It seemed like it would be lot more difficult for me to type on the device. I’d say after holding one I’m probably even less likely to buy one than I was before. My main reasons for not buying one would be:

1. I dont’ want to pay for another 3G account with AT&T whose super slow 3G network I’ve grown to detest. Who would win in a race between a turtle and AT&T’s 3G network? Well at least the turtle would show up to the race.

2. As a photographer, the device seems ill equipped for my photography needs. I like that I can transfer photos off my 64GB Sandisk CF card using a firewire 800 reader super fast like to my Mac Book Pro. Without a firewire 800 connection this is problematic. Also the unit doesn’t have very much storage or a powerful enough processor to run something like Adobe Lightroom. (Yes, I know that this is not what these devices are for, but photography’s a big part of my life personally speaking so it’s how I personally think, and I think a bit different than others sometimes).

3. I don’t like that I can’t get flash internet pages on the thing. I feel like I should be able to get the *entire* internet on any device I own and not be a causality in a personal pissing match between Apple and Adobe.

4. I read an article over the weekend that alleged Apple had rejected an app request for a political candidate. While I might be able to sort of look the other way as Apple censors porn on the device (not really, but just saying), reading that they’d actually censored an app over what felt like politics to me felt especially wrong. Yesterday’s TWIT episode was a good one. Cory Doctorow and Robert Scoble were on with Leo Laporte and censorship of the Apple app store was brought up on the show. Talking about the need to have apps approved by Apple individually, Cory made the statement that “”human evaluation of ‘stuff’ doesn’t scale very well.”

5. When I played with the iPad it sort of kept doing that back and forth thing between vertical and horizontal rotating of my screen that my iPhone does. It’s not that I don’t want that functionality, it’s just that I don’t want that to happen as much when I don’t mean it to happen. Not sure that makes any sense or that there is any way that Apple could design a device to do this less, but that’s just a feeling.

6. I didn’t like that it didn’t have a DVD player in it. Especially since I wouldn’t likely buy 3G service with one, I’d want to be able to watch my Netflix movies on it when I wasn’t connected to the internet and lot of my Netflix content still comes on DVD.

7. With entry level units priced at $499, I could get a full fledged MacBook for only $500 more. Seems like a better value to me and that I’d get a lot more than I do with the iPad.

8. If I bought one the kids would probably fight over it. My son Jack might also drop it from his bunk bed and break it (he dropped a laptop from his top bunk once). As it stands now they use computers mostly that are desktop units that can’t be taken into the bunk bed to drop, either that or they use our iPhones.

9. This is just a feeling, but it feels to me like Apple is innovating less. I haven’t been very impressed with the things I’ve read about the new upcoming version of the iPhone (and will probably be moving over to Android when my AT&T contract is up in July, and oh, AT&T, raising your early termination fees on your phones over the weekend doesn’t help people want to buy a new iPhone).

10. A better version of this will come out later (maybe by Apple, maybe by somebody else).

11. I don’t like seeing charges for apps show up in my emailbox that the kids buy. I don’t really think that they *need* them and the charges feel like they add up. Here was the first email that I woke up to this morning: iTunes receipt: “Item Number Description Unit Price 1 150 Awesome Sound Effects with Timer, v1.9, Seller: george hubka (4+) Write a Review Report a Problem $0.99” If we had an iPad I’m sure I’d only get more of these sorts of emails. Last night my daughter Holly asked me if she could download apps on my iPhone as long as they were free. I told her sure.

12. The little company (well not really) that used to tell people to “think differently” doesn’t quite feel like the same company these days. I remember the first time I saw the Apple “Rip, Mix, Burn” billboard back in the olden days. That somehow felt good. Apple telling me to sort of bypass Hollywood and make my own CDs. These days it feels like Steve Jobs has become “the man.” I was turned off by his “freedom from porn” comment (even if I felt it was bogus for the journalist who quoted that statement of his in a private email to do so).

Now that said, I’m just one member of my family, and the rest of the family had a completely different opinion than I did.

My nine year old son Jackson was especially *thrilled* with it. It’s like a *huge* iPad dad, he said. I “sooooooooo want one.” He spent the entire car ride home trying to get me to buy him one. Then he started strategizing about whether it was too much or not to ask his grandmother for it for Christmas (I told him it was) when he realized that I wasn’t going to cave in and buy one.

Playing (some game that he said that I don’t remember) on an iPad would be “awesome” apparently. I told Jack that it seemed a bit expensive for a device that couldn’t even play DVDs and that you for only $500 more you could get a full fledged MacBook that was a full computer, and he said, yeah, but dad, $500 more is a *lot* of money, my wife chimed in that $1,000 was way too much to pay for a laptop.

I mentioned that I didn’t like the keyboard and my wife said that she definitely did and then proceeded to complain about the sound that my typing makes in bed on my MacBook Pro at night. It’s so grating she said, it’s even worse than when you chew ice. The keyboard on the iPad would be so much quieter, she added.

So there you have it, an updated post on why I still haven’t purchased an iPad. I don’t plan on buying one anytime soon… but, the natives are definitely getting restless and my wife seeing her friend reading a book on one at my son’s baseball game on Saturday certainly doesn’t make things any easier for me.

Why I Haven’t Bought an iPad Yet

Over on Twitter Alberto Lopez asked me why I’ve been quiet about the iPad so far. Of course, everyone and their mother has been yammering about nothing but the iPad for the past few months so I’m sure my thoughts on the thing haven’t been missed.

But I thought I’d add yet another voice to the millions that are talking about the device thus far. I can’t really review the unit of course. I don’t have one. I can’t gloat about it like Walt Mossberg or David Pogue as I’ve never even touched one, but these are my initial thoughts from someone who *hasn’t* bought one yet.

1. I take my MacBook Pro with me everywhere I go 24/7 and best I can tell it can do anything that an iPad can do and more. Why carry around yet another device when my MacBook Pro already does everything for me that the iPad can?

2. One of the reasons that I bring my MacBook Pro with me everywhere is that I can process photos during downtime. I process photos every day on BART for example. I’m not sure that I can use Lightroom on the iPad or that it would be as easy as my MacBook Pro. Also the limited storage on the iPad would not make it a good tool for editing super large 21 megapixel RAW files that I use my MacBook Pro for.

3. AT&T’s 3G network is crappy in the San Francisco Bay Area, plus I’m not eager to shell out another $30 a month when I’ve already got 3G on my iPhone.

4. My experience with Apple products is that the initial release is usually followed by better releases and it may be worth waiting to see what comes out next. I’ve also heard lots of reports that the initial product has a lot of bugs.

5. Even though I’ve literally spent the night in front of an Apple store before for a product launch and have waited in lines at their stores many times before, recently I’ve been pissed off at how Apple treats their customers in their stores.

While I used to view going to an Apple store as a positive experience, lately it has felt like a very negative experience for me. I blogged about this a few weeks back. I thought about going to the Apple store to look at one, but worried that I’d probably need to have an appointment to be allowed to even set foot in the store to look at the box of one and then chided and insulted by a snippy Apple store clerk about not having an appointment to grace their presence.

6. I’ve also been rethinking my overall view of Apple in the past few months. My iPhone’s contract is up in July and I’m thinking about switching to a Google phone product. Google feels more open to me than Apple. It also feels to me that Google authentically cares more about their customers and users than Apple does as well.

7. It doesn’t have USB ports. I also carry a 1TB Seagate FreeAgent Go (which ROCKS!) and could be a perfect solution to the storage problem with the iPad for me, but since the iPad has no USB ports, there would be no way of connecting this drive to it. This drive is actually not that much bigger than my iphone or a pack of cards and is USB powered. Shame not to be able to use an ideal storage device like this with the iPad.

Also I frequently use my FireWire 800 high speed card reader (another product with totally rocks) to transfer my photos from my CF cards to my MacBook Pro. This reader would be worthless on an iPad and I can see no easy way of getting my photos off my CF cards and onto the iPad while out shooting in the field (Not that I could fit many of my RAW photos on the device anyways given it’s tiny storage).

I’ve thought about buying an iPad for the house just to have around for others in my family to use. The cost is relatively inexpensive for a computing device and it’s largest appeal to me so far is probably that you can watch Netflix “Watch Now” programming on it.

But then I think that if I got one for the house the kids would end up fighting over it. The kids would probably drop it and break it (my son sent my old laptop off the top of his bunk bed and broke the display). And we already have a Wii, XBox 360, Mac Mini and Dell Media Center PC connected to monitors that can do Netflix “Watch Now” right now. Do we really need a portable device too?

So I may not be Apple’s ideal customer, and despite the hype and how sexy and cool the thing appears to be, it just doesn’t feel practical to buy one right now. Plus I can’t get the image of it as one of those calculators with super large buttons that old people use out of my head. Don’t get me wrong. I’m tempted. And if I actually tried one I might break down and buy one anyways, but thus far I’ve yet to jump on the iPad bandwagon with the rest of the cool kids. Not that they need my money anyways though as it seems that these things are doing a pretty good job of selling themselves. 🙂

I’m Starting to Think Apple Treats Their Customers Very Poorly

Every Connected Generation

For the past 3 years or so I’ve become something of an Apple fanboy. It started with making a switch about 3 years ago from being a 15 year PC user to my first MacBook Pro as my primary computer.

Then I drank the kool-aid and waited in line overnight at the Palo Alto store for the very first iPhone (that was fun). Then I bought the second iPhone right away.

Then I waited in line again for over 6 hours to buy the third iPhone 3GS. Then I bought a new MacBook Pro spending over $3,000. Then I bought my daughter an iPod mini. Then I bought a Mac Mini for the kitchen at home. Etc. etc. You get the idea.

All along the way Apple products have slowly been replacing competitor’s products in my house and in my life.

One of the things that I’ve always liked about Apple is that they have physical stores where when things go wrong I can go deal with them.

Back in the olden days I bought a Dell PC once. It had problems and I literally had to pack the thing all up, deal with the hassle of shipping it, send it back to Texas, had to wait for a few weeks and finally got my fixed PC back. So a big appeal to me with Apple products is that they have stores where I can go to deal with issues if they pop up (and issues *always* pop up with technology).

But lately I’ve been feeling like the service that you get at the Apple stores is complete crap and that they treat their customers (many loyal users who spend thousands of dollars per year with them) very poorly.

A few examples.

1. A few months back my MacBook Pro wouldn’t boot. I was bummed. I use this computer every day. I hate not having it. It was 6pm or so on a Friday night. I drove down to the Emeryville Apple store. I got there and the store asked me the dreaded question of whether or not I had an appointment or not. I said no and so they said no dice. I said I could wait, 30 minutes, an hour 2 hours, 5 hours. No luck. They simply refused to see me.

They were willing to make me an appointment for later that night at the San Francisco store, so I took that and had to drive across a traffic infested Bay Bridge, pay to park at Union Square, etc. in order to get over there.

Once I was there and got to see a guy, he tried to boot up my computer and no luck. He tried 3 or 4 different things and then sort of gave up. He hooked something up to my Mac and said my hard drive was dead. I told him that everything was working flawlessly before and I was surprised that this would be the problem etc. etc. But rather than really digging into it and trying more things he simply dismissed it as hard drive failure.

Of course Apple didn’t have the hard drive and so they’d need to order it (on a Mac less than a year old). I’d have to make another appointment to bring it back once the hard drive came in etc. etc.

To make a long story short, while waiting to get the hard drive in at the Apple store, I was able to work on it more at home myself and finally got it back operational, reinstalled the system software and got my Mac back.

I’ve been using this same hard drive for the past few months with zero problems. I felt like I was told that my problem was a hard drive failure because it was the fastest easiest way to deal with me, even if it meant I’d possibly lose data and be inconvenienced with the repair.

2. A few weeks back I decided that I needed a car battery charger for my iPhone. So I stopped off at the Apple store at Walnut Creek. It was 9:45 a.m. and super cold outside. The front door to the store was unlocked. There were people back at the genius bar working with customers. And there were about 10 Apple store employees just standing around with their hands in their pockets.

I was greeted by a woman at the door who again asked me if I had an appointment. I said, no that I just wanted to quickly purchase a cigarette lighter power adapter for my iPhone. She told me that they couldn’t sell me one until 10a.m.

So I said ok, I’ll wait then. To which the woman replied, I’m not going to be able to let you wait in the store (even though there were plenty of other customers with “appointments” I guess already in the store and the front doors were unlocked).

Now it was really cold outside that morning and to make matters worse I had two little girls (my daughters) age 5 and 7 with me. So this Apple employee literally boots me out of the store and so there I am sitting on the cold concrete outside the store for 15 minutes with two little girs who are complaining about being cold. Because the Apple employees (all sitting around doing nothing) can’t take 2 minutes to sell me a simple accessory and to make matters worse, won’t even let me wait in the warm store with a heater on and instead put a dad and his two little girls outside in the cold on the sidewalk.

By the way Apple, that photo up above is of one of my little girls, one of the little girls that you made sit outside in the cold in Walnut Creek on the sidewalk using your iPhone.

3. The headphones on my iPhone went out. This is the 3Gs iPhone that I bought less than a year ago (it hasn’t been out a year yet) and is still under warranty. So yesterday I went up to the Apple store on Union Square and waited in line to see a cashier and explained my problem and asked if I could swap them out for a working pair. The cashier said they couldn’t help me. That I could only swap my headphones out with an appointment from the genius bar (WTF?).

So I went upstairs and of course there were no appointments. I was also told again that I couldn’t wait that there was nobody period to see me. That I would need to make an appointment. To do a 2 minute swap out of my headphones I asked incredulously? Yes, I was told. I explained that I was leaving today (which I am) for a trip to Miami and had really hoped to be able to listen to my iPhone.

So the person suggested that I buy a new pair of headphones. Come back and return them within 14 days, make an appointment to have my headphones replaced under warranty, and go that route. Which sounded just stupid to me (all for a 2 minute procedure) so I complained one last time and the person at the genius bar had another person take me back downstairs to the same cashier line I’d been it at the very beginning and swap out my headphones for me (which I really appreciated, but it probably shouldn’t have taken 40 minutes to get this done).

So these are my three of my four most recent experiences at the Apple store. The fourth one was a no brainer. I wanted to buy a MacMini. They sold that to me in about 5 minutes all lickety split like no trouble indeed there. Sure were happy to take my money.

I’ll probably continue buying Apple’s overpriced hyped products because I love them and they make great products (or maybe I won’t). Am I a sucker? Maybe. But I sure wish they didn’t treat their customers like such crap. Maybe it’s stupid of me to feel like after spending thousands of dollars every year with a company that I ought to get treated a little bit better, but I do feel that way.

And I sure wish Apple would require their employees to go through Nordstrom’s customer service training or something. Because while they may get away with treating me like crap for now because they have great products, eventually somebody else will have a better product and the way I’ve been treated will make it that much easier to switch.

I’ll tell you one thing though. I sure as hell didn’t pre-order an iPad. At least that makes me feel a little better.

The New Yahoo Mobile Flickr iPhone App, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Welcome Screen and Uploading With the New Flickr iPhone App

Yesterday I downloaded the new Flickr iPhone app developed by Yahoo Mobile. The app is available in the U.S. and some other regions as well. Apparently there are regions that it is not available in yet (Ireland, Sweeden, etc.) as well, but I can’t seem to find an official breakdown for where it is available and where it is not.

The Good

1. It’s free. You certainly gotta love the price of this new app. It also appears to be entirely advert free which is pretty cool as well. I only tried it on a paid pro account though so maybe non-Pro users see ads.

2. Browsing recent uploads from (I assume) your contacts are pretty awesome. Viewing recent uploads and faving them from the app seems simple and intuitive.

3. You can upload photos that you take on your iPhone to your Flickrstream directly
(I’ll never use this, but as the iPhone is now the most popular camera on Flickr, this functionality makes a ton of sense). Apparently batch uploading is not supported yet though.

4. The application seems very simple and intuitive to grasp and if you are on a good connection, photos seem to populate very quickly.

Recent Uploads and Activity on the new Flickr iPhone App

The Bad

1. No real way to search for photos near you.
One of the things that I would think would be super cool would be for Flickr to interact with your iPhone’s geolocation abilities to show you geotagged photos near you. Especially for the traveler, this would seem like a cool feature. It would also be cool to sort this list by most recent, most interesting, and closest and also allow you to filter it by tags as well. So, for instance, if I was visiting Chicago and wanted to see everything tagged graffiti near my motel, I could do that and use my iPhone’s GPS functionality to take me right to something that was interesting.

2. Recent activity doesn’t show you how many faves your photos have received like the web version. The regular web page does show this and it would be good to see this on the iPhone version as well.

3. There appears to be no way to filter photos from the ” Recent Uploads” section. Actually I’m not even sure what the “Recent Uploads” are supposed to represent. I think that these are the most recent photos uploaded by your contacts. But when I compare this page with the recent uploads from my contacts on the actual Flickr site the photos appear to be different. On Flickr web I’m allowed to see the most recent uploads by my contacts four ways (either by friends/family only or all contacts, and most recent 1 upload or most recent 5 uploads). On Flickr iPhone there does not appear to be a way to filter these uploads by friends/family only for instance. It would be nice to have some sort of toggle button between friends/family and contacts in keeping with consistency with the Flickr web site. I tend to browse my friends/family recent uploads more than all of my contacts photos so it’s disappointing that this functionality appears missing.

4. While the screensaver app that is the default welcome screen is pretty cool, it could be better. Actually I’m not even sure exactly what these photos represent. It would be nice to be able to customize this opening slide show. I’d love to be able to set it (for instance) to show the most recent photos of my friends/family. Or to show the most recent photos on Flickr tagged “neon AND california.” Or to show photos within a one mile radius of where I am sorted by interestingness. You get the idea. Being able to customize this initial slideshow would make it better.

5. No support for group discussions. Group thread discussions are one of the most active places on Flickr. It would have been nice to see an intuitive way to browse group discussions from the iPhone.

No Andertho, Ivan Makarov, or Merkely on the New Flickr iPhone App

The Ugly

1. Support for the new app seems pretty poor. There is no FAQ that I’ve been able to find on the app. Inquiries into the product over at the Flickr Help Forum are being redirected by Flickr staff to this page, which seems pretty unhelpful. The Flickr Blog has not even posted about the new app yet. You’d think that since Yahoo Mobile and Flickr are both owned by Yahoo that they would have coordinated support on the product a little better than this.

2. At least for me the app still feels very buggy. Maybe I’m just hitting it on a bad day (it’s second day released) or maybe the app hates wifi, but much of the functionality of the app didn’t work for me. For instance, when I tried to search for photos all that came back were blank thumbnails. When I tried using the contacts search feature to search for some of my contacts many of my contacts were not there and missing. A search for three of my contacts, for example (Andertho, Ivan Makarov, and Merkley) all came up with no results when browsing the “contacts” section of the app.

Search Pulls Up Blank Thumbnails in the New Flickr iPhone App

Later on I was able to get search results to actually populate, but it seems (best I can tell) that search results returned for any search term are based on Flickr’s “Relevancy” algorithm, which is the worst way to view search results on Flickr. This app should search using the interestingness algorithm instead of Flickr’s “relevancy” algorithm and it should also allow you to search by most recent photos as well.

Also, when I tried to search by my tags, this wouldn’t work either. If I clicked on the letter of the tag it just blinked at me and nothing happened. While browsing sets is cool. It appears that the app only returns your last 40 sets are so. For someone like me (with a lot more sets) it would be nice to see more sets included or for this page to page forward.

The new app does require you to authenticate with Flickr in order to make it work. This step was a little buggy for me as well, but after about 4 hours of retrying I was able to get this authentication to take.

Despite some of the bad/ugly comments, overall I’m very pleased with this app and will use it a lot more than I would have originally thought. It’s a good first step effort by Yahoo Mobile and I think that over time many of the bugs will go away and new functionality, hopefully, will be added to improve the experience. It’s great to be able to have this as a tool to enhance the overall Flickr experience and I imagine that I’ll especially use it to fave recent photos uploaded by my contacts when I’ve got down time and am out and about.

Dude! I’m Getting a Mac!

Tower Above
Apple’s Flagship Manhattan Store

Well after many years as a PC user, in August of 2006 I pulled the plug and switched from a Dell laptop to a 15” MacBook Pro. For the last three years I’ve been using this MacBook Pro as my primary computer. I was really worried about switching over back in 2006, but actually it was a lot more painless than I thought it would be.

As it’s going on 3 years now, lately I’ve been thinking that it’s time to upgrade to my next primary computer. I have a desktop Dell machine at home that handles my Media Center stuff and I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not to buy another MacBook Pro or go back to a PC for my primary laptop. The PCs seem a little bit less expensive, but overall I’ve been happy with my MacBook Pro experience. And I think a lot of times you get what you pay for.

Today’s decision by Apple to reduce the prices on the MacBook Pro (the base model on the 17” is now $2,499) combined with an increase in the standard hard drive size from 320GB to 500GB and an increase in the processor upgrade option speed from 2.93GHz to 3.06GHz finally pushed me over the edge and I pulled the trigger. Supposedly it will take 5-7 business days to ship me my new Mac (I really hope it gets here before I go to L.A. a week from Friday) but at this point it is ordered and on it’s way. Dude! I’m getting a Mac!

Here is the configuration on the new MacBook Pro I ordered:

3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2X2GB
500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
MacBook Pro 17-inch Hi-Resolution Antiglare Widescreen Display
Backlit Keyboard (English) / User’s Guide
Accessory Kit

So in addition to today’s price decrease on the MacBook Pro, here are the other reasons that I upgraded today and why I went with a Mac over a PC for the second time around.

1. Bigger hard drive. The current hard drive on my existing Mac is 120GB. Especially with larger file sizes from the Canon 5D Mark 2 space is at a premium. I do have a 320GB USB powered external Maxtor drive that I travel with, but it will be nice having that extra disc space, especially when going out in the field for long photo trips, for storing my images. Also, given that Adobe Lightroom seems to like a lot of scratch disc space for photo processing, having this room on the drive is going to be very helpful. My drive on my current MacBook Pro is 5400 RPM, I ordered a 7200 RPM drive on the new MacBook Pro, so hopefully this will help with Lightroom’s performance as well.

2. Increased processor speed. I’m hopeful that I will get a significant performance boost out of Adobe Lightroom (my most important software) with the faster processor on the new MacBook Pro.

3. The antiglare screen rocks. Frequently I’m processing photos on BART or in a lighted room at home or work and the glare on my current MacBook Pro makes it very difficult. I went into the Apple store and checked out the antiglare screen in person vs. the standard display and for me at least the decision to upgrade to the antiglare screen made all the difference in the world. Check it out at the Apple Store sometime yourself in person.

4. The 17” display looks amazing. Even though it is only a little bit larger than a 15”, the 17” display felt significantly larger to me when checking it out in person. The 17” is still small enough as well that it fits comfortably into my LowePro camera backpack that I use daily. Having the extra space will make it easier for me to process photos on it. The 17” MacBook Pro is one sexy beast. I couldn’t stop petting it when I’ve visited it on recent stops off at the Apple store.

5. I’ve been very happy with the support I’ve received at the Apple Stores. My hard drive went out on my MacBook Pro just a week or so before it’s warranty ran out and Apple replaced it free no problem. They’ve also been very helpful with the iPhone issues that I’ve had. I’ve needed to replace the headphones and they’ve done this free for me twice and also helped me figure out that a piece of lint was inside my headphone jack a few months back when I could only hear sound coming out of one speaker on my iPhone. I like the genius bar approach where I can set an appt and have someone experienced help me and I *love* that even when I have to wait I have access to fantastic Mac machines with super large displays at the store that I can surf the internet on while I wait. The free wifi in the stores is a cool thing too.

Knowing that a physical Apple Store is there if I have problems with my computer is a big plus in my opinion, especially one with such good service that I’ve consistently received at both the Emeryville and San Francisco stores.

6. More and faster memory. I’m hopeful that the 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM that I’ll be getting will help improve performance over the slower 3GB (upgraded) memory in my current MacBook Pro today. It’s also nice knowing that I can upgrade this machine to 8 gigs when the price of the upgrade comes down a bit and that Snow Leopard should allow Lightroom to recognize all 8 GB of RAM.

7. It’s about time I got on Leopard. I never did upgrade my current Mac to Leopard. Apparently I’ll also be eligible for a $10 upgrade to Snow Leopard when it’s out on the new machine.

8. It’s about time I get my kids on a Mac full time. At home my kids use the two Dells that we have today. My old Dell laptop which is in the kitchen and the Media Center Dell in the attic. Even with these two other computers available though they are constantly jockeying for my Mac. Especially my older son Jackson (who is 8 now) seems to always want to be on it. He’s going to be thrilled to be able to have more access to my current Mac.

9. Longer battery time. Much to do has been made about the new and improved battery time with the new MacBook Pros. It will be nice having more battery time, especially because I use so many battery intensive programs like Lightroom. My biggest complaint about my current 15” MacBook Pro has been the battery life.

So there you have it. The new Mac is on it’s way. More to report when it actually shows up! I’m excited.

Thomas Hawk Buys a Mac

Digital DJ

Well I’ve been hiding a secret for the past two weeks. It’s something that I’ve felt conflicted and unsure of, something that I’ve felt ashamed of and proud of at the same time. Something that I’ve been trying to sort out before I actually wrote about it. Most people will probably say, “yeah, big deal.” But for me it kind of is a big deal. I haven’t told very many people. I showed Robert Scoble last week but have been kind of hiding it otherwise.

A little over two weeks ago I walked into the Apple store in Palo Alto and bought myself a new MacBook Pro. Yes, the new sexy Intel dual core MacBook Pro. And I went home and after not using a Mac for over 15 years, put my Dell PC notebook literally in the bookshelf and have been using this new Mac as my primary computer for the past 2 weeks.

And what do I have to say about the experience after two weeks? My God! This is f***ing amazing! For the past 15 years I’ve pretty much been a diehard Microsoft PC guy. I’ve mocked the religious zealotry of the cult of Macintosh. I’ve derided the senseless brainwashing that Steve Jobs seems so elegant at.

And then I just did it, I went out and bought one. Maybe it’s a self destructive bent that I’ve got. Maybe it’s the need to explore something new. The move made me think about marriage. Was I simply trading in my trusty old wife of 15 years for the sleek slender new 19 year old model? Was I somehow doing this as a fashion statement? But the answer was no.

I was very frustrated with my Dell PC for a number of reasons. When I would edit photos on it and then upload them the color would be all wrong. I couldn’t disable tap to click. I tried to buy an EVDO card for it and it wouldn’t work. (I tried three EVDO cards actually and had to return them all).

The Dell had this habit that I hated. It would go to sleep and then I’d open the lid to use it and press the power button to activate it. Nothing would happen. A full minute would go by, still nothing. So I’d think that maybe it didn’t know that I pushed the power button and would push it again. Then it would come on only to immediately begin shutting itself down because I’d pressed the power button twice. There would be no way to stop it and so I’d have to wait until it fully rebooted to start using it. Applications would hang. It wouldn’t work on my network right. It would tell me that I had a wifi signal but wouldn’t connect without a reboot. I was constantly needing to install drivers and uninstall drivers. So many things.

And all along the way it was my 18 year old tech mentor Kristopher Tate, who kept saying, dude, just get a Mac. Just get a Mac. They just work.

And so I did. And I have to say that he’s right. It just works. It took about 48 hours of getting used to but once my little introductory awkward phase was over it just works so much better. It springs to life immediately when I open it. The new EVDO card I got works perfectly. It’s fast. The picture quality is very accurate. I can easily work in both Bridge and Photoshop at the same time on it while still having Firefox and Thunderbird and Skype and iTunes and jUploadr all open at the same time.

I did have a few hiccups along the way. It wasn’t easy to get it to work with my Windows network at home, but having Kristopher around as tech support has been a fantastic safety net. Every time I need to figure out how to do something he shows me. He helped me transfer all my old email from my old Dell notebook, settings and bookmarks, etc. over.

And then there’s the design of the thing. I never in a million years would have thought that the design of a laptop would ever matter to me at all. It’s not about the aesthetics of a machine. It’s what it does for you right? Well, maybe. But this machine is damn sexy. I love the way that the keyboard is lit at night so that I can work in the dark. I love that glassy screen. There is something about the feel of the polished aluminum as I hold, no caress, the thing in my hands. It types perfectly. I love how I can use two fingers on the touch pad to move my screen down. I love how it has a hidden built in microphone and a small little video camera in the screen so that I can do video phone stuff through Skype super easily. I love how the little power supply has a magnet built into it and just kind of plugs itself in. And yes, I even love that glowing little Apple logo on the back of the case that I’ve scoffed at in the past at the various conferences and tech meetups that I’ve gone to.

I used a Mac back in college and used them exclusively from 1985 or so until 1991. My past memories of the Mac are of the Mac Plus and the SE/30. With my first Mac I literally had to swap floppy discs back and forth out of the drive between the OS disc and the application disc because it had no hard drive. And then I went to work for a bank in 1991 and the Mac was definitely gonski there. I did ask for a Mac and they just laughed.

I figured that since I had to use a PC at work, I’d better use one at home too in order to best master the beast. And it has been a beast for me. As tech saavy as I like to think of myself as I’ve had so many problems with my PCs over the years. If using a PC is being outside working digging ditches all day long in the hot sun, using my new Mac is like hanging out at the spa.

I’m not really giving up on my PCs yet. I still do have four of them at home and two at work. But I imagine that I’ll be spending 85% or more of my computing time on this slender sexy new MacBook Pro in the future. I was going to buy a new CableCARD capable Vista machine in January but I’ll probably hold off on that a bit. I may still end up buying one but will probably do it later if I do. We’ll see.

Call me a convert. Call me a traitor. Call me a heretic. Or call me a fanboy. Welcome me to the club or say it ain’t so Joe, but all I can say is that Kristopher is right. It just works. And it feels so great while it does that. It’s the best I’ve felt about using a computer in a long, long time.

Update: Thanks all for the comments and thanks to the diggers who dugg this story to digg’s front page and to Apple Computer for putting it on A week later I’m still totally digging my Mac. Even more than ever. Here’s one other thing that I absolutely *love*. I love how no matter where you type on a Mac it spell checks everything for you. If I’m posting on my blog, if I’m leaving a comment on someone else’s blog, if I’m writing an email, if I’m doing anything with text it just constantly spell checks. And it doesn’t do it in a distracting way. No pop ups or spell checks or menus, etc. Just a thin red line under the word that is unknown and a simple right click to add the word to your personal dictionary or fix the spelling. That really rocks.

By the way, the Mac in the photo above is not mine. That’s just one that I took a photo of at the Web 2.2 party last month at Fluid. But it does show how very cool they do look.