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| Journal | The Personal Disquiet of Mark Boulton

The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

Blog Category: apple

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

In 1992, I started using my first Macintosh when attending art classes at college. Frankly, it was a frustrating experience with tools that were not as immediate as pencils or paint. Yet, in that small dark room, surrounded by the smells of powder paints and musty paper, this large box attached to a CRT display captured my imagination. Next year, I will have been using Apple Macs for 20 years.

This morning’s news of Steve Job’s passing was shocking and saddening. Made even more poignant by the fact I’m working in Bangalore in India currently, and this week is a Hindu religious festival called Dussehra. This festival goes on for ten days, and on the ninth day in Southern India, Ayudha Puja is celebrated. On this day, people give thanks for the tools they use everyday: vehicles, spades, kitchen tools and computers.

Without these tools I use, I wouldn’t be doing what I do now. I wouldn’t have studied design, or studied at the university where I met my wife. It all started back then in that small, dusty room in the art rooms in college.

Today, I’m thankful to Steve Jobs for giving me the tools to do my work.

Filed in: apple, personal. on October 6th, 2011

Refurb 20” Intel iMac? Or should I just sit on my hands?

{title}Right, here’s the thing. I bought my G5 iMac nearly two years ago now and I’ve been overall very happy with it, but lately there’s one thing which has been really beginning to bother me. The damn fan. It’s a revision A iMac (the one’s with the dodgy fans), so it’s a well documented problem which can’t be fixed. The problem is, it’s been getting much worse over this past year—it’s screaming loud right now—and to be honest, it’s getting to point when it’s even audible over music at full volume.

Well, I’ve gone and done it. Ordered my new 20” Intel iMac yesterday. After the heat of last week, coupled with the fact I needed to do quite a lot of intensive processor work on the machine, the fan noise was pretty much unbearable. Called Apple, they said it was ‘within accepted limits’. I guess if you’re only surfing the web and reading email, this might be the case. The new machine should be here on Wednesday. Can’t wait.

So, I’ve been giving the idea of upgrading to an Intel machine. Currently, there some available in the Apple Refurb Store for about ?900 (a saving of 26%). I’d of course have to chuck some extra RAM in there though. I’d probably get about ?500 for this machine on eBay, which makes a ?400 outlay for a brand new machine, with a whisper-quiet fan, very tempting.

The only thing which is currently stopping me is the Adobe Apps thing. Adobe will be releasing them in about a years time, which in itself isn’t too much of a problem I guess. I’d rather put up with a slightly slower Photoshop than a loud fan every day, all day. There are also the added benefits of a machine that could dual boot in XP for testing purposes (and also for Emma’s work). I’ve got a couple of questions though:

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  • What’s the Refurb Store like? Anyone had good or bad experiences with them?
  • Should I go for an Intel machine, or just wait for the Universal apps?

The fan is just too much though. It’s like having someone sat next to you blow-drying their hair all day long.

Filed in: apple, personal. on June 25th, 2006

Apple’s missing link

{title}No real surprises with Apple’s latest product releases. A video iPod, an updated iTunes (selling video no less) and an updated iMac (featuring integrated iSight). Perhaps the most interesting product in all of this is the iMac’s new Remote and the application called Front Row.

Front row seems to be a TV friendly application for browsing your media (photos, DVD’s, movies etc) with the previously mentioned remote. All good so far.

{title}But Apple seem to be under the assumption that people will watch films on their computer. True, some people will. Most people won’t however. No matter how much ‘cool’ you throw our way Steve, an iMac is not a telly. Yet.

For years I think Apple have missed a vital component in the iMac - a TV tuner, or now built in digital free view. This technology already exists as a third party peripheral, it really isn’t too much bother to include it. Then your average student would have it all - TV, DVD player and computer now sporting a rather convenient remote. The trouble is, Apple haven’t done that and we’re left with a big gap in the march to convergence.

That gap is a something that has been doing the rumor rounds this week. A video Airport Express.

If Apple were to release this (and put a digital tuner in the iMac), it won’t really be a surprise to me, but coupled with Apple’s marketing savvy and the success of the iPod, it has the power change the way people watch TV.

So, Apple, here’s what you need to do:

  • Get some deals struck with movie studios and distributors
  • Sort out any DRM issues
  • Make the new Remote work with the new video Airport Express
  • Release the video Airport Express
  • Oh and add a digital tuner to the iMac
  • In fact, why not add a half a terabyte hard drive to the video Airport Express and call it something like ‘iHome’ (yes, I know there were fake images of this circulating a while ago).

I have an Airport Express and it’s already changed the way my wife and I listen to music. We don’t use CD’s anymore. We save space by not having oodles of jewel cases everywhere. My wife and I have different playlists for different things etc. It’s all good. So, imagine what would happen if Apple were to do all of this. We could have quick access to all our digital photos for when the Parents-In-law come round, we could also download the latest film to watch (if, like us you live nowhere near a video store, this kind of thing would be a Godsend). This list goes on and on.

Mind you, if you were to ask my wife, she would say ‘why do we need that?’.

Good point.

Filed in: apple. on October 12th, 2005

To Applecare or not?

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That is the question.

I bought my iMac G5 almost a year ago and according to Apple’s nice serial number tester thing (which now sports a nice bit of AJAX) I have exactly 19 days in which to buy Applecare if I want it.

So, do I?

It’s a ?139 for an additional two years of warranty. Not too bad on the face of it. But then I got thinking about the way the G5 iMac is built.

A lot of the G5 iMac is designed to replaced by the user at home using a few tools and detailed instructions from Apple’s websites. In the past when computer’s have broken down, you’ve had to send them off or get experts to fix them, and there’s the cost. So, does apple’s new strategy with the iMac get round this? I’m not too sure, and have 19 days in which to make up my mind.

Your help, however, would be appreciated. So, is it worth it?

Filed in: apple, personal. on October 6th, 2005

Tiger woes

Oh the pain of it all. Not only did I have a bit of a mare trying to order this operating system, but now after installing it’s bust my wireless connection.

Apparently I’m not the only one with this problem though. I have an iMac G5 connecting to a Netgear wireless router and Tiger just refuses to play ball with the DHCP, the Airport keeps assigning itself an IP address.

It works fine through Ethernet though - I guess I’ll have to wait for a fix.

Grrrr

Update:

Well, after being up for a long time last night, leaving the FW drive to run on TechTool to try and recover some data I get to it this morning at 7am and it’s totally screwed - B-Tree’s knackered, can’t mount, can’t be fixed, can’t recover any data. Had to wipe it.

That means i’ve lost a bunch of stuff, but most importantly a book I was designing for our wedding photographs. Ouch. The bruising I’ve received from kicking myself will now be aggrevated by the kicking my Wife’s going to give me!

Luckily I backed stuff up to DVD in December, all other work since then has been documentation which has been emailed. Thankfully, I have everything saved in my sent items - thank the lord for IMAP!

Filed in: apple. on May 5th, 2005

Bloody Amazon

I like Amazon. Honestly I do, it’s just sometimes they really screw things up. I’ve had Tiger on pre-order for what seems like weeks now. Then, a day before the launch I was expecting it to be shipped.

After logging in, it was still showing that it hadn’t been dispatched, but the date that was showing for estimated delivery was yesterday! Strange. So, I gave them a call and they said they’d been inundated with orders and their computer systems had screwed up. So?

Surely they should have expected a high level of sales. Surely their systems need to be able to cope with that. Long story short is that it wouldn’t be shipping from Amazon until the week of the 9th, so I cancelled and ordered it from Apple. It’s just not worth the grief for saving a tenner.

So, there’s been lots of discussion on Tiger so far. Some good. Some bad. What are your thoughts?

One thing that has been concerning me is my lack of backup procedure at the moment (looks like i’m not alone either!). I’ve been holding out for Lacie to release their Ethernet Minidisk as it looks like a really handy piece of kit for a home network. Anyhow, I’m hoping Tiger’s Backup and Install feature is robust enough not to screw things up.

We’ll see in a couple of days.

Filed in: apple, news. on May 3rd, 2005

A few things of interest this morning…

Apple iPhone prediction confirmed.

I didn’t think it would be long before this was confirmed. Personally i’m sold already and I haven’t even seen it! I’m such an Apple whore.

Targeting Small Screens - Stopdesign

Doug’s back with a great writeup on targeting small screens for your designs.

WDW2004 keynotes available as video

Speakers include: Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Fried, Ethan Marcotte & Molly Holzschlag

On another note. The migration to Expression Engine is going well although still quite a lot to do with the design. Some of the portfolio may have to be redesigned again due to EE not being able to do some of the conditional logic I want it to. Never mind, there’s always a different approach.

Filed in: apple, css, design. on December 17th, 2004

New Apple Store opens Saturday 20th November in London

Apple opens it’s new store tomorrow Sat 20th Nov on Regent Street in the heart of London. This is one of the downside’s of not living in London, you can’t just pop down to see what it’s all about. The store looks good and there’s some cool opening day offers (such as the Lucky Bag).

Update: See title. Oops.

Update 19th November: Silly people camping outside the shop!

Filed in: apple, news. on November 16th, 2004

A new iMac - the story so far

Mark recounts his experiences of buying, opening and starting a new 1.8GHz G5 iMac. For those who are interested…

As promised here’s the story so far with the new iMac. As mentioned in a previous post it all started with a phone call from the Apple centre in Cardiff telling me new iMac had come in five days early.

So, I patiently waited until lunchtime then drove up there picked the new machine up.

The first thing I noticed was what a tiny, lightweight box in comparison with all my other computers from Apple (this is now my fourth, the other were: 1994 - 1997 LC630, 1997 - 1999 Performa 6400, 1999 - 2004 B&W G3) True, the other computers I had came with a large monitor as well and all but one were tower cases.

The slightly annoying thing is that I couldn’t set the machine up properly until the Sunday evening as I had friends staying for the weekend and it would have seemed a little rude of me to hide away playing with my new toy.

Heading - packaging

The design of the box is typically Apple (as shown in the image below), the experience of removing the machine from the packaging was also pretty good apart from there’s no obvious place to get hold of the machine, kind of like the G4 iMac really. For years now Apple has sold us the concept of handles on our computers. Then suddenly it’s dawned on them that people don’t actually move them around that much and therefore they probably don’t need one. Good move. Still, it took me a while to work out that grabbing it on either side of the screen is ok.

box.jpg

The machine itself, keyboard and mouse were covered in a removable plastic film which is the sort of thing I don’t like taking off. It’s not a pleasurable experience. It’s like the moment of no return, the beginning of your new computer being tarnished. Or maybe that’s just me?

Designless

Setting up the machine, I mean, putting 3 cables in because that’s all you need to do, was very easy indeed. Even my mum could do it. The first thing was trying to locate the on button. It’s located on the back of the machine is is the only thing to be slightly raised and feel like a button. Very nice. I push it and the familiar chimes ring out as the machine kicks into gear.

The Setup program has been tweaked slightly from a UI point of view and it is now more aligned with some of the fancy UI stuff that OS X can do. The different screens of the setup proceedure no rotate as if on the sides of a cube, similar to the fast using switching in OS X. I’m such a sucker for things like this. Looks nice, very tactile, and makes filling out forms a little more interesting.

welcome.jpg

Once that was complete the familiar desktop appeared and that was the end of my first experience with my new machine. All in all a good one.

Now a few things about design. The appearance of the G5 iMac is one of understated elegance. It does this very well indeed. There is no unessential visual clutter around the screen, no buttons you hardly ever use, no lights, nothing other than a big grey Apple logo (even this logo should belong on the back if you ask me). All the controls, ports, sockets etc are on the back out of sight.

The CD drive is located on the side and is just a slot for you to shove the CD into. I had my reservations about this design because I thought you may have to look where you were putting the disk, but actually you just run it along from the back until you find the slot then push the disk in.

On the back of the iMac, it’s obvious you’re looking at an iMac, from the rather large word!

imac_back.jpg

After thinking about this, this simple attention to detail is what sets Apple apart from the rest of the competition. Apple have realised the backs of their computers are important. Not only are they where all the ports go and things like that but they’re also on display. Most reception desks, a lot of offices, expose the backs of the computers to be on full view of anyone who walks by. This is Apple’s latest attempt at making looking at the back of a computer a little more enjoyable.


Dispelling the rumours

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There are many potential hurdles which the new G5 iMac has had to jump over. Processor speed, and associated generated heat being one of them.

One of the USP’s of many of the previous iMac models has been the ‘lack of fan’, the ‘quietness’ of the running machine. The iMac G5 is no different. Apple touts the noise of this machine being less than a whisper in an empty room. Not the whole truth.

If all you want to do on your new iMac is write email, surf the web, use Word, then you aren’t going to have a problem with noise. End of story. But, if you want to play games, use Photoshop, edit video or do anything else which requires the processor or graphics card then the fans begin to kick in.

The G5 iMac comes with 3 fans, all of which are controlled to come on when needed, to slow down when and speed up when required. The fans are distributed around the machine and ensure a cooling airflow. The ‘thermal chimney’ (as the Apple rep put it) is vital to this airflow. Along the base, beneath the screen, is a perforated area where air is sucked in (it also allows sound to come out from the speakers) by the fans and then blown out of a ridge on the back of the machine. The great thing is, this ventilation is so well integrated into the design they are unnoticable, completely.


Summing it up

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I’ve only been using the machine now for a couple of days and so far it’s managed to dispel all of my preconceptions. It’s fast, ergonomic & quiet. I couldn’t ask for more for a home computer. I even wouldn’t want switch to twenty inch version, this one’s just fine!

Filed in: apple, news. on October 12th, 2004

Once again, i’m shocked

Just when I thought I was about to get gazumped next Tuesday when my new iMac was supposed to be in, I get a call from the Apple centre telling me my iMac is in!

I was pleased to say the least. Anyway, i’ve got it and i’ll be setting it up on Sunday probably as i’ve got friends round for the weekend. As promised i’ll try and document the whole thing for those who are interested.

Filed in: apple, news. on October 8th, 2004

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