Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Mac OS X Application

I've really liked what Apple has done with the Mac and their OS X. It looks great, works well, and has become very productive. I've liked it so well that I now have 3 Macs - an older PowerBook, a first-generation iMac, and now a MacBook Pro.

I figured it was time to play with developing applications on OS X. So I've downloaded the Xcode 3.1 environment, bought a Dummies book (@grantbob - shhh!) and started playing. I first downloaded the latest Xcode but it turns out that it requires Snow Leopard to run and I've not yet received my copy.

The approach to developing applications is wildly different than Microsoft's with
their Developer Studio tools and .Net. Microsoft's tools are much more straight-forward - creating the proverbial "Hello World" application is trivial while it was a little more involved in Xcode

The dance between Xcode and Interface Builder will take some getting used to, but the tools appear to be very good. They are complex and present a steep learning curve. It would be tricky for new programmer to simply download the Xcode and creating a hello world in a single unaided session. However, the Xcode application also comes with templates and with what appears to be a very complete tutorial and online book.

What impresses me is the emphasis on modularity and object orientation. This emphasis is part of the learning curve; in the long run, however, it probably presents a good discipline that allows for large and complex programs that are more modular than some C++ programs are on Windows.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blackberry Bold? Or overpriced brick?

I had an opportunity to play with the Blackberry Bold today. There's a new corporate AT&T store near my house. Since I'm a glutton for punishment I wandered into it today to take a look-see. In a word, I was not all that impressed with this flagship smart phone.

The phone was big - bigger than my 1st generation iPhone. It was both wider and thicker. It did weigh less though, but that's because it feels, well, cheap. I've seen Blackberry's hit the floor a number of times. Battery, body and battery door all bounce in different directions making a very gratifying "crash!". Owners simply put them back together, turn them on, and go on with life.

Speaking of a crash - the very nice girl that helped me crashed the phone trying to show me something on the browser. We locked it up good and could not get it unstuck. She finally popped it open and took out the battery. It took several minutes after she reassembled it until we were able to use it again. As she said, Blackberry's take the longest of any of their phones to turn on, and I believe it. It was horrible. This little hourglass kept flashing - and after it came up we had to go through the initialization questions again.

It did have a very nice screen - she showed me an "HD" movie and it looked very nice. And the little phone has one heck of a set of speakers on it. She turned it up and let's just say you'd make a scene in your local coffee shop.

Email and text-oriented stuff like dialing and the contacts list were excellent. As a phone I think it would work exceedingly well; as an email client it is legendary. As an iPhone replacement, however, I'm worried that it will leave me disappointed. I'd need to play with it more in the real world - unfortunately, I suspect they'll not lend me one to play with for a week. Test drives have not yet made it to the telecommunications industry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pandora Broken on my OS X?

Pandora is one of those site and applications that runs pretty much anytime I'm awake. I have been running it from my MacBook Pro; this morning I tried to launch it and the site is dead to me. The frame of the Pandora site is up and Flash is loaded but the "movie" is not running. Looks like something on my Mac is hosed and Flash or Pandora is misbehaving.

I upgraded my Flash and Air, but Pandora still is dead. I even tried the typical reboots, clear cache, logged out of Pandora One and back in - nothing seems to work. All the 3rd party Pandora applications also do not work.

Strange thing, it is broken for both the Safari and Firefox 3.5 browsers, so it appears to be a Flash issue. At this point I'm finding nothing about it at all and no way to troubleshoot it. Sux.


Update: I found the direct link from the Pandora site to their desktop application that is written on top of Adobe AIR. That downloaded and runs just fine. I had intended to install it anyway since it runs outside a browser.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Maybe I should have done this about AT&T

"Lala - AT&T screws up orders and can't fix problems... lala..."

er, um. naw

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

AT&T follies, part (lost track)

After having no luck actually speaking to a human, I decided to try my hand at AT&T's "Contact Us" from the web site. In the very limited space I attempted to give the abbreviated description of my issue. They reply:

I have reviewed your account and find the credit was issued to your account on 08/11/09 in the amount of $322.92 for the iphone that was sent back by store. I see that you have already contacted customer service regarding this credit, and your concerns have been resolved.

To recap Mr. Forrester, you have already called customer service and a credit was issued and your concerns resolved. I hope the information has been helpful and resolved all your issues. Thank you for being a loyal customer of AT&T we appreciate your business and look forward to serving you for many years to come. Once again my name is Jewell [name blanked] and if you have additional questions about this issue please reply to this email. If you have a new inquiry or future inquiry, please log back into your My Wireless Account and submit a new email correspondence request.
Nice try. Guess that looks good on the statistics when a support manager's telling his or her boss what a great job they're doing. Unfortunately (for me), I've still not received a credit from AT&T. No Jewell, this issue is far from resolved. I responded to her email with a recap of my own. I'm not optimistic.

Update: I'm happy to report that on 8/13 a credit hit my bank. No iPhone yet - probably won't be one for now...

Monday, August 10, 2009

AT&T: Issue resolved (not!)

I got a nice text message last Friday from AT&T that stated "Issue resolved". Hmm, wonder what that means. I don't have a shiny new iPhone, I don't have a credit back to my bank account, and I've not gotten any calls about resolution from anyone. Nice game, guys.


I spoke with AT&T again today to find out what "resolved" means. In fact, I'm (by chance) speaking with the exact same person I spoke with last week. She has no idea what's going on, and after 2 minutes reviewing my account, is asking me the same questions she asked me last week. Wow. Just wow... Where'd you buy the phone. Did you speak with the store? Which phone did you purchase? They didn't notify you?

Funny thing is, once again the AT&T person attempts to contact the store, but they didn't answer. "Hello?" Is anyone piloting this ship?

My best guess at this point is that they have no idea what's going on, and their business systems and procedures do not allow and enable them to actually resolve my issue. They texted me because I was very insistent that if I did not hear back from them last week I was going to file a dispute claim with my bank and claim fraud. (I have - oh, I'm sure AT&T are shaking in their proverbial boots over the power of the little guy to ruin their day...not.)

Epic Fail.

Friday, August 07, 2009

AT&T Follies part 2

Well, after talking to Customer Service two days ago I discovered that calling the AT&T 800 number simply connected me to a person who knew less than I did and had less access to information than even me. They couldn't see my transaction, could not see that my phone had been sent back, and had no way to verify that I had been sent any email. They could see nothing that the store did. Sort of makes sense; sort of.

They promised to have the store resolve this and call me by yesterday 8pm. They didn't (as expected). Today I get a nice call from Monica who's job it is to be pleasant and grandmotherly to angry people like me. We vent, they apologize, they call their manager they call back and say "Good news, I've gotten your credit expedited. It will be credited by the 14th". What? This is the 7th. Wow - by then the 30 day automatic credit for the returned phone would have almost kicked in. Thanks for nothing.

This is truly ridiculous. Apple has so messed up their stores that you have to stand in lines outside the store just to talk to a "specialist" to buy, well, it seems, anything now. I guess I could go stand in line for my iPhone replacement and then wait forever while they provision it. I was hoping that the AT&T store would be able to perform the task quicker. Silly me.

What's really stupid is that no one at AT&T seems to really want to sell me an F'ing iPhone. Do they really hate Apple that much? In all these conversations no one has said, "Congratulations - just stop by the store and they'll give you your new iPhone that you've already paid for." Instead they seem to want to give me my money back...eventually, after waiting for a really long, long time. Like one of my co-workers just mused, sounds like they just don't want you as a customer.

Sounds like it.
Update 8/7: Just got a text from AT&T saying my issue is "resolved". As yet, I'm not sure what this means. No credit processed and visible on my online bank. We'll see what's there tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I love cell phone companies (and other lies)

Yes, yet another massive screw up by a cell phone company. Surprised? You must be still in the cell phone honeymoon stage on your first phone. You'll see soon enough.

I've had horror stories with T-Mobile, with what used to be Bell South Mobility, and with Verizon. I'm working my way through AT&T currently and setting my sights on the next candidate for totally screwing up something for me.

The current situation: I ordered my new iPhone about a month ago. Good thing - recently my original iPhone has lost part of the touch screen. It's a band toward the top that prevents dialing, prevents selecting the first items in lists, and places off limits any icons in the 2nd row. A Google search finds that many have encountered this; not much to do.

Anyway, July 9th I ordered my new phone. I received an email confirming the purchase; this email indicated that I would receive another email when the phone shipped in an estimated couple of weeks. That was my last email. After unsuccessfully trying to contact the store by phone I decided to fight traffic and head back into the store today. "Sorry sir, your phone was in the store for 7 days and then shipped back."

What? Good grief! as Charlie Brown would declare. I got charged $322 anyway, thank you very much. I never received an email or call. I double checked. Nope.

Here's the great part. I'm at home on with customer service and they find no record of the purchase, the $322 charge, of a sent-back phone - nothing. Pleasant.

I am troubled by the trend I've seen in recent years. Businesses have gathered an ever greater density of customers; they've never found a way to support those customers in any way resembling the service that one would have received "in the old days" from your (say) local neighborhood proprietor. Businesses have all the earmarks of big Government. They draft a playbook for mass sales, yet have no pages for actually supporting those sales. They pump up the volume of new customers then struggle to supply the technological bandwidth to even sustain them; customer service is caught in the middle trying to answer questions, cool tempers, and find some way to achieve a positive outcome. I feel for them; I think they give up, are poorly trained, and too often just could care less.

When the guy who sold me a phone which they sent back can not give me a refund, but instead has to wait for the 30 day period to some computer can automatically issue me a credit - that's a breakdown of the system. It's a piss poor design of the business process. When I can't then call the national customer service and get any results - when they themselves can't even see the transaction since it was from a "core store", that's just crazy.

I can tell more stories about these big telecommunication companies; other people can relate more stories, and even worse ones. I can switch - it's jumping from one cauldron into another. It's switching from the terrible Republicans to the terrible Democrats. I may actually receive a call from a manager - hell, it might even be a VP like when Verizon couldn't figure out why my phone failed to receive phone calls without first dropping them for 3 months. Did the VP solve my problem? Naw. He just sounded "nicer" when he apologized for my pain and anguish, but offered no solution.

It's the big cell phone company today. Might be an insurance company tomorrow not wanting to pay for the stitches in my thumb. Satellite TV and cable companies. Internet providers. Power and gas companies. There are so many of these huge institutions that control many of the specifies of our lives; we don't live in America any more. We live in AT&T, DirecTV, Blue Cross, City Bank land now. I pity the control freaks out there; they're powerless to attain any level of true control beyond simply not using the many products and services from these companies. Hard to do in todays technological society.

...god how I miss my rotary phone and old TV. Not getting a good signal? Move the rabbit ears. Don't like the program? Twist the channel knob. Nothing good on? See that volume button? Push it.

...ah, that's better...hmm, do I really need a phone?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wonder where my new Mac Pro is made?

Doesn't surprise me...much. I ordered a Mac Pro laptop. It's on a FedEx plane. Not from Cupertino - I was pretty sure Steve didn't assemble it in the Apple headquarters' garage. I didn't, however, expect it to be drop-shipped direct from Shanghai. Interesting world we live in now...

Aug 4, 2009 11:33 AM
Left FedEx origin facility

Update: My son thinks this is so cool. I said, "It's on a plane from China." He replies "Even as we speak?" Even as we speak, I affirm. "Wow, that's so cool. I love when you say 'Even as we speak' - it's so current."

Interesting world...

Monday, August 03, 2009

National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month.

When my son was born there was a discussion between his mother and I about "do we or don't we" immunize. She in particular had been impacted by the propaganda from the alternative crowd of the horrors of immunization. Yes, the discussion of autism came up, even back then. Our pediatrician at the time did give her a little flier on the subject, but was pretty exhasperated with her, and actually got very "snippy" with her on it. That didn't help. Fortunately, today there is an even greater and easier access to good information.

In the end I felt that the evidence was clear - there was no evidence supporting a link to autism, and the positives greatly outweighed the potential negatives, especially with the extremely low odds for negative side effects. We immunized fully.

I have never regretted this; I regret, however, that there are still those who are still suspicious and stubborn and who have been "poisoned" by the irrational thinking of the pseudo-scientific businesses. Fortunately, there is alternative information about this alternative thinking. I understand the emotions of the issue; I also understand the emotions of those who's children have contracted a preventable disease because a group of parents are too stupid to educate themselves; are too suspicious to trust those who know best; have been indoctrinated by people who have products to sell that will only sell if people stop trusting those with the best knowledge and start to believe the vacuous claims of these alternative medicine companies.

It was a tough question; however, as one who grew up seeing the very real effects of polio on my father's generation, I fully understand how real these epidemics were - and can be once again. Jenny can chant "Green our Vaccine" - it is green. It has been made even greener as a precaution. It's safe and the evidence is there to support that. Stop with the false claims and nonsense and listen to the evidence. Let this be the month of education...of awareness.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Dara O'Briain

He's pretty funny. NSFW (generally - he's Irish with a good command of the language)

For example, he's pretty much figured out the best diet plan.