MartiniPundit

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Two Months With the iPad

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So I’ve had the iPad for almost two months now and I can opine on it.

Um, I love it.

My expectations were in line I think with the device itself – I expected it to be an information delivery medium and it has delivered in spades. E-mail, news readers, reference, and personal information management have all been improved over my previous solutions. Futher, the smaller size of the iPad has meant it is very nearly always with me. I do not even feel the need to discuss the actual box. It’s an Apple product and its design, build quality, and tactile feel are all top notch.

In short, the iPad, far from being a toy, has increased my productivity, mostly by streamlining my daily information consumption and gathering. It also can serve as a content creation device, though that is clearly a secondary function. I recently took a trip and left my laptop behind. I didn’t miss it.

I do have a quibble. The big issue is Apple’s decision to stop selling screen protectors through the Apple Store. Big mistake. I get that they are trying to inculcate the idea with consumers that the iPad screen is durable. Of course it’s durable – it’s also glass! I first purchased a screen protector from Zagg (don’t) which I found fell short of the quality I would expect of a product designed for an Apple device. It was more than another month that I discovered that Power Support, the makers of great iPhone screen protection had an iPad screen. I ordered it. It has now arrived, it is on, but in so installing, I discovered that my iPad had somehow gotten a scratch on the screen. This does not happen to me – I am very careful about such things. Yet, somehow, a half inch scratch appeared on my iPad screen. If Apple had sold the PS screen protectors in the Apple Store, then this would not have happened as I would have bought one on the spot. Apple needs to get over whatever product angst it has and let consumers buy appropriate protection at the point of sale.

Apple’s screen hubris aside, the iPad is a fantastic product, far outpacing the putative competition.

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Written by martinipundit

July 15, 2011 at 12:55 am

Posted in Apple, General, Technology

Tagged with , ,

MartiniPundit Adds an iPad

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Well, some time ago I posted that I had added an iPhone. While I was not the earliest adopter amongst my friends, I was early enough that I had no concerns about my tech cred.

Not so this time.

Indeed, one of my long-term readers (perhaps the only one) beat me by nearly a year. Nonetheless, MartiniPundit has now joined the iPad ranks.

It was not easy. It was, in fact, ridiculous. I had decided to wait for the second incarnation of the device, and then there were a couple of months before I felt free to spend the money. The iPad 2 was released March 11th, and by the beginning of May, I was all set. I assumed I could walk into the Apple Store and buy one. What a fool I was.

I had decided to combine the iPad purchase with other errands. I finished my other shopping and then went to the Apple Store. Now, if you’ve been to an Apple Store you will understand that sometimes the experience is a little too intense. I walked in, and was immediately asked “What brings you to the Apple Store today?” I knew, but didn’t feel like sharing. “Do you need a reason to visit the Apple Store?” I replied. “Yes,” came the unlooked for answer trailing behind me as I tried to head to the back of the store where the accessories are kept. On my way there I had to endure two additional employees/goalies. Once past their clutches, I looked for my purchases. Consider me weird – I do research and always know what I’m going to buy. I don’t need the saccharine Apple Store employees to help me out. I love Apple products, and I recognize how critical the retail experience is to them, but I don’t find it all that edifying.

Thus, when I was ready to be helped, all I really needed was for them to retrieve my iPad of choice. I was not prepared for them to say “no.” They were sold out!

I was shocked, but then I went out into the mall and sat down. I pulled out my iPhone and fired up the Apple Store app. After calling virtually every store within the range of my fuel tank, I began to realize something was not quite right. There were no iPads to be had. After returning home, I used my friend Google and discovered that there were organized groups – mostly Chinese – who were buying up iPad 2s as fast as they were being delivered. This was an arbitrage opportunity since the devices were not available in the Far East but people there were willing to spend up to three times the retail cost in the US to obtain one. Apple – for better or for worse – was encouraging this activity by not requiring the iPads to be activated in store (something that had been true for iPhones) and allowing customers to buy two. I read an article about scalping which made me realize that the iPads were not so easily obtained. A strategy would be needed.

So I set out to scan the Apple Stores near me. I decided that Hingham – far off the beaten track – was a good shot. I got up early, drove down, and parked, arriving about 7:30am. No one was around. Was this a good sign or a bad? I didn’t know. I had brought a book, so I camped out on the bench near to the Apple Store and waited. The women who used the outdoor mall for an exercise course went by more than once, and then a man arrived and was admitted. Prior to this, the only person I had seen at the Apple Store was the window washer (they do have a lot of glass). Over the next thirty minutes other employees arrived, and I was intrigued to see that I had not witnessed all of then arriving. A back door? I think so.

Next, a man drove up in a big BMW, and was admitted. Now it should be said that the Apple Store did not officially open until 10 am. Yet here we were at 8 am with some serious foot traffic. Another woman, also driving a big BMW arrived. I’m thinking this is the Apple Store in the morning. Of course, in theory, iPad sales would being at 9. As the key hour approached, I moved towards the door to position myself as first in line. Others also arrived, bolstering my confidence that I was on the right track.

At about 8:50am the Chinese arrived.

Yep, the stories were true. A Chinese man and two Chinese women arrived and got in line (on the opposite side of the door from me – nothing doing I thought). I imagined them buying my iPad and sending it for resale to Beijing. I chatted with the woman next to me. She was on her third trip to an Apple Store to buy an iPad. Eventually the salesgirl came out, and after some elaboration as to who was first in line, she announced that they only had a couple of 16GB models in stock. Well, I was only interested in a 64GB, and I knew that there was another Apple Store at the South Shore Plaza but a few minutes away. I dashed to the car and made a beeline for the mall.

Once I got there, all was peaceful. A woman mopping the entrance told me the store was not yet open. I knew that. Yet, as in Hingham, there were people inside, people coming by, and all sorts of activity. The Apple Stores are more than retail outlets it seems: they are training and educational facilities. Apple’s retail strategy is far more complex than their competitors and seems an integral component of their success in gaining market share over the last decade.

And then it happened. The Chinese arrived again. The same Chinese man who had been in Hingham, and trailed by his same molls. At least I had beaten them here. Eventually, another employee came out, and I talked to him, learning that they had had no delivery that morning and were out of iPad 2s. I was beginning to think this was ridiculous. I called other Apple Stores in the region and got the same answer. As I drove home, I decided to swing by the Apple Store in Cambridge where I was told that they had no deliveries on Monday, but any other day of the week would be good. Okay, so I went home, and the next morning went back. There, two lovely Apple Store employees informed me that they had had no delivery of iPad 2s that day. As I informed them that I had been told in this very store not even 24 hours before that this would not be the case, I was told that they never knew when they would get them in. Astonishing.

In disgust, I went home, and ordered one off the Apple website – two weeks to delivery. And so I waited.

About a week later I called the store in Cambridge out of curiosity. They did have some iPad 2s at one o’clock – Verizon models only (they don’t work overseas).

Then, as it happened, I did a little more research a couple of days later and discovered that the model I had ordered (the non 3G model) did not have GPS capability. Well, that’s pretty important I think, so I canceled the order. Nothing left to do but try the Apple Store lottery again. Thus, the next morning I drove over to Cambridge, but I didn’t try to get there especially early. Indeed, I think I got there a few minutes after ten – the official store opening. I asked about iPad 2s, and was directed to a fellow outside the store. I spoke to him. He had a stack of little pieces of paper in his hand. I told him what I wanted. He had a slip! Here it is:

Whoa, I thought – I’m actually going to get one of these suckers. And so it came to pass. Apple Store employee Sarah (I should have taken her picture too) came out and escorted me inside. She brought me the sacred box. I handed over the credit card and relished the irony of paying Apple hundreds of dollars for the privilege of buying their artificially scarce device. Sarah asked me if I needed anything else today, and I suggested an armed guard to escort me to my car would not be out of place.

Since then, I’ve been enjoying my new iPad 2. It is a fine device, and it is doing everything I expected of it. Apple, interestingly, has sent me several e-mails asking about my buying experience. I don’t think they want to know.

Written by martinipundit

May 16, 2011 at 1:24 am

Posted in Apple, General, Technology

Tagged with ,

iPhoneymoon

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About a year and a half ago, I noted that I had acquired an iPhone. Though it was a second generation device, and very nearly two years after the first iPhone, I was still among a small number of my friends and relations who had one. So, when I spent the first weeks nearly glued to the thing (a phenomenon that did not go unnoticed by others at the time), I paid little attention to it.

Since then, I’ve seen quite a few others gain an iPhone and go through the same experience. One guy’s girlfriend even broke up with him referring to herself as an “iPhone widow.” People who acquired iPhones seemed to change, subtly, as if they had undergone a life-changing experience (most of the latter in my circle are PC people). The iPhoneymoon seems an inescapable part of it.

So it is with some amusement (and chagrin), that I observe the iPhoneymoon again here at Villa MartiniPundit. We acquired not one but two for Christmas, and both of the other denizens of the Villa are blissfully on their iPhoneymoon.

What would the world be like without Apple? Poorer, to be sure.

Written by martinipundit

January 12, 2011 at 1:11 am

Posted in Apple, General, Technology

Tagged with ,

Genetic Immunity to HIV?

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There’s an interesting piece in Wired discussing a possible explanation for those people who seem to be immune to HIV. This phenomenon has long been known in medical circles, and it crops up from time to time in the mainstream press. Here’s an excerpt:

Genetic resistance to AIDS works in different ways and appears in different ethnic groups. The most powerful form of resistance, caused by a genetic defect, is limited to people with European or Central Asian heritage. An estimated 1 percent of people descended from Northern Europeans are virtually immune to AIDS infection, with Swedes the most likely to be protected. One theory suggests that the mutation developed in Scandinavia and moved southward with Viking raiders.

All those with the highest level of HIV immunity share a pair of mutated genes — one in each chromosome — that prevent their immune cells from developing a “receptor” that lets the AIDS virus break in. If the so-called CCR5 receptor — which scientists say is akin to a lock — isn’t there, the virus can’t break into the cell and take it over.

Vikings? Perhaps someone should look into Iceland’s situation, as their genetics have been kept in the family for a millenium now. The article is worth a read.

Written by martinipundit

June 7, 2006 at 11:17 am

Access Woes

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I think it’s over. To all of you who’ve wondered what happened, suffice to say that my internet access for the past two weeks has been spotty at best. However, I think that my cable provider has finally licked the thing – but we’ll see.

For those more interested (and especially for those of you who might have cable internet service), read on.

I’ve not sure if the non-North American readers have ‘cable’ internet, so I’ll briefly explain. In the US (and Canada IIRC), there are three basic ways for residential consumers to get internet access: dialup (56K), DSL (128K – 768K), and cable (1.5 Mbps+), this last coming through one’s TV service provider and typically being the fastest of the three. Indeed, I usually have download speeds approaching 3 Mbps.

I’ve had this service for nearly two years now without a hitch. Then two weeks ago – on Wednesday – the signal became intermittent. I know a bit about how networks operate, and I’ve managed to troubleshoot most of my own problems for some time. So I tinkered a bit but no dice. Over that first 48 hours I would estimate that I had about 6 hours of access. Being wireless, I also grabbed some bandwidth from one, and eventually two neighbors, but those connections were slow, and didn’t always work. Might be distance, or it might be – shudder – dialup.

I first called the cable company – Comcast – on Thursday and set up an appointment for Friday (all day – who knew when they’d come?) with a backup for Monday. They missed both appointments. By this time, my access was out for the count, and only one neighbor was occasionally available. If I knew whose bandwidth I had borrowed, I would give him some pointers on improving his network. Anyway, I called Comcast and wondered where their service techs were. They claimed the appointments had been “cancelled” but they knew not by whom or why. Well, it certainly wasn’t me! By this time I was fairly sure that the issue was either their line or the cable modem itself. So we made another appointment for the 3-5 window on Thursday.

Thursday came and went. No cable guy.

At this point, I was openly asking them if they actually had any service techs to send out. I also began to hear that magical phrase “Comcast is sorry for any inconvience” (hereafter CISFAI) which I would hear at every turn with them from this moment on. We made another appointment for Saturday 1-3.

Nothing. I had called about 1:30 to confirm the appointment, but after 3pm passed, I called again. At this time, I was informed that the appointment had been cancelled at 1:03 nearly a half hour before I called and received confirmation that the appointment was on. The guy CISFAIed me, but I told him I needed a tech out today and that was that. He gave me another window of 4-7 that same day.

Truly annoyed at this point, but beginning to see the humor in the whole thing, I waited. When 7pm came and went, I was openly laughing as the alternative was to start hurling breakable objects. Five appointments had been missed. Somewhere along the line, they had waved the fee for the month which was decent of them considering they weren’t providing service and didn’t seem overly concerned about doing so in the future. In no mood to cook, we ordered in Chinese, and shortly after its arrival, the doorbell rang. It was not one but two cable guys. At 8:30. I didn’t care – they were here.

So they went to work. They looked at the modem. They hooked up some testing device. They decided it was the splitter (the device which separates the data and video streams from the cable line), replaced it, confirmed the internet was live, and left. They both gave me a CISFAI.

Three hours later, the cable went out again.

Late on Sunday, I called Comcast again. For various reasons, I was not able to face this task until later in the day, and given how it turned out, I must say it was for the best. I mean, for total farcical value. Not that I knew that right away.

The woman I spoke with had an accent – not all that unusual, and at first I thought nothing of it. It seemed she had the ability to remotely check my cable modem – something not a single person had mentioned thus far. This she proceeded to do three times before sagely informing me that “the modem isn’t connecting.” Really? Gee, thanks for clueing me in there. She suggested that the modem be replaced, which was also something I knew. What I did not know was where the local Comcast service centers were. (At this point, I figured it was more efficient to go get the damn thing myself rather than wait five more appointments for a live body to show up.)

She gave me the closest choice – Brookline. Now those of you from Massachusetts might be familiar enough with Boston to know that the closest choice is rarely the best choice here in the Hub. In fact, from where I live, Brookline is a 5 minute flight by bird, 40+ minute drive by car. I then asked her where she was. An innocent enough question I thought, as most people are aware that calling centers can be located anywhere. For all I knew, she was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But she hedged, mumbled something about “international” and then moved on. India! I realized, finally placing the hint of an accent.

Eventually, she gave me two more options, Medford being the easiest to get to. I thanked her, and she gave me a CISFAI.

So the next day – Monday – I called the Medford office and was treated to a recorded voice telling me that the number was not in service. Uh oh. There was a brief window in the neighbor’s bandwidth and I managed to discover that the Medford office had closed, but there was one in East Boston – unknown in India – which is a 15 minute drive from me. Great, I thought. However, the silliness of a woman halfway across the planet being able to ping my modem but not being up to date on office locations she was giving out amused me greatly. There are limitations to outsourcing after all.

Armed with the knowledge that I just had to pick up the modem, off I went. I’d never been to this part of East Boston before, but it was a main drag so no sweat. I arrived, parked, went in, and there was no line. Things were looking up! Until the woman at the window told me that their computer was down – company-wide – and she couldn’t give me a modem without being able to “check it out.” I stared at her in disbelief. Comcast was nefarious – they would stoop to any means to prevent me from regaining access. Even to the point of shutting down their network. I gave the woman an abbreviated version of the woe, she gave me a CISFAI. I left.

When I got home, I called for another appointment. Tuesday from 1-3 they gave me. I said sure. The guy showed up. At 2pm. I wanted to pinch him to see if he was actually there. He listened to the problem, hooked up some testing device, and then said, “It isn’t the modem.” Oh, I thought, they’re diabolical. He had to go out the fire escape (I live on the fourth floor), into the back well to check the lines. Did I mention it rained really hard that day? When he came back up, he told me that the signal was – you ready for this? Too strong. Not weak. Strong. The modem couldn’t process it because it was being overwhelmed (it should be at 8db but was at 16db – some of you might know better what that means than I). He threw some more technobabble at me about what another tech guy would need to do the next day – not involving me, thankfully – and that should do the trick. Well, this is that day. I’ve had uninterrupted access since he did whatever he did. Threatened the modem for all I know.

Oh, and he threw me a CISFAI as he left.

Written by martinipundit

May 10, 2006 at 9:22 am

Posted in Technology

Tagged with

Access Issues

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My apologies for going on silent running. Comcast, my alleged cable provider, has been ‘providing’ very spotty internet access this past week and even failed to make a service appointment they scheduled. Not sure when things will be back to normal …

Written by martinipundit

May 1, 2006 at 7:56 am

Posted in Technology

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Gallic Pride

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Apparently the French have had enough of iTunes – the French government that is. The French parliament is considering legislation that would invalidate Apple’s digital rights management (DRM):

France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer Inc to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker’s popular iPod player.

Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.

It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management — the codes that protect music, films and other content — if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.

Because, Lord knows the French are oh-so-concerned with making American content more available to the French public. I mean, it’s not like they fail to understand that the whole reason Apple can distribute digital content is because of the agreement on DRM with the content creators, without which, they cannot distribute said content. Ergo, if such a law is passed in France, Apple will have no choice but to shutter iTunes access in France. Who wins here? The French public? Apple? The content creators? As far as I can see, the only winners here are the xenophobic technocrats who run France. Look for the EU sequel soon after.

The Marselleise will probably still be available though.

Written by martinipundit

March 14, 2006 at 10:33 am

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